…ultimately, the way a group reacts to allegations of misconduct may be a better indicator of its underlying dysfunction than the content of the allegations themselves. – Christopher Hamacher
The BBC reported on September 26, 2016 about how sexual abuse in the FWBO (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) – nowadays Triratna Buddhist Order (TBO) – happened under the guise of claimed »spiritual friendship« and to help »make spiritual progress«. The BBC spoke to three former members who explained that they were pressurised into engaging in sexual activity with the leader and founder of the FWBO/Triratna Buddhist Order, Sangharakshita (Dennis Lingwood).
One of the persons being abused said, »It was abuse of trust really, because I was a very sincere, perhaps naïve young man wanting to practise Buddhism.« One man said he was under the legal age of consent for homosexual sex at the time. While some followers believed that the leader of the group made a sacrifice in engaging with his students in a sexual relationship, Elie Godsi, a clinical psychologist who has been an expert witness on a number of high-profile abuse cases, said: »This is all about the sexual gratification of a person in a position of authority or power within the group.«
One good thing in that context is that at least FWBO/Triratna is beginning to acknowledge the power and sexual abuse and is talking about initiating steps to prevent future abuse. I read some reports in the past from men being abused by Sangharakshita and responses by FWBO/Triratna members. At that time I felt there was a tendency to still whitewash what happened by claiming the sexual relationships helped them.*
For those living in the UK see also BBC’s »Inside Out East« in which Jo Taylor examines allegations of historic abuse at a FWBO centre (first 10 minutes).
* To understand the harm such abuse can bring you can read the Guardian report The dark side of enlightenment from 1997 which reports the sad story of Matthew, a talented Oxford graduate who rejected careerism in the mid-1980s and joined the FWBO and who committed suicide.
Of tremendous help for me to understand sexual abuse in the context of a power differential (priests, psychologists, teacher-students) is Peter Rutter’s (MD) »Sex in the Forbidden Zone«. I can highly recommend to read that book and to take it to heart.