Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher, Organised abuse and the politics of disbelief, NCRJ Reveals Itself

February 13, 2013 Comments Off on Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher, Organised abuse and the politics of disbelief, NCRJ Reveals Itself

Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher

By MARK OPPENHEIMER and IAN LOVETT
February 11, 2013

Since arriving in Los Angeles from Japan in 1962, the Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki, who is 105 years old, has taught thousands of Americans at his two Zen centers in the area and one in New Mexico. He has influenced thousands more enlightenment seekers through a chain of some 30 affiliated Zen centers from the Puget Sound to Princeton to Berlin. And he is known as a Buddhist teacher of Leonard Cohen, the poet and songwriter.

Mr. Sasaki has also, according to an investigation by an independent council of Buddhist leaders, released in January, groped and sexually harassed female students for decades, taking advantage of their loyalty to a famously charismatic roshi, or master….

Such charges have become more frequent in Zen Buddhism. Several other teachers have been accused of misconduct recently, notably Eido Shimano, who in 2010 was asked to resign from the Zen Studies Society in Manhattan over allegations that he had sex with students. Critics and victims have pointed to a Zen culture of secrecy, patriarchy and sexism, and to the quasi-religious worship of the Zen master, who can easily abuse his status.

Disaffected students wrote letters to the board of one of Mr. Sasaki’s Zen centers as early as 1991. Yet it was only last November, when Eshu Martin, a Zen priest who studied under Mr. Sasaki from 1997 to 2008, posted a letter to SweepingZen.com, a popular Web site, that the wider Zen world noticed.

Mr. Martin, now a Zen abbot in Victoria, British Columbia, accused Mr. Sasaki of a “career of misconduct,” from “frequent and repeated non-consensual groping of female students” to “sexually coercive after-hours ‘tea’ meetings, to affairs,” as well as interfering in his students’ marriages. Soon thereafter, the independent “witnessing council” of noted Zen teachers began interviewing 25 current or former students of Mr. Sasaki.

Some former students are now speaking out, including seven interviewed for this article, and their stories provide insight into the culture of Rinzai-ji and the other places where Mr. Sasaki taught. Women say they were encouraged to believe that being touched by Mr. Sasaki was part of their Zen training. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/world/asia/zen-buddhists-roiled-by-accusations-against-teacher.html

Report on Joshu Sasaki Allegations
An independent Council of Buddhist leaders investigated allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Joshu Sasaki, who has taught thousands of American at his two Zen centers in California and New Mexico. Published: February 11, 2013

On Authority by Alan Hozan Senauke with Jan Chozen Bays and Grace Myoan Schireson

When ongoing questions of misuse of sexuality or power unfold in a spiritual community, it is rarely a matter of one person’s actions. Reading through the painful and heartfelt accounts documenting Joshu Sasaki’s sexual relationships with students at Rinzaiji down through the years, we see how, knowingly and unknowingly, the community was drawn into an open secret, and people’s ability to practice the
dharma suffered. Despite individual and collective attempts to address boundaries, repentance, and rectification, these behaviors appear to have continued over more than four decades. We have reports that those who chose to speak out were silenced, exiled, ridiculed, or otherwise punished. Understanding that our practice is to bear what is unbearable and not to turn away from reality, how could this be so? We suggest it has something to do with a view of spiritual authority and “enlightenment” that we in the West have created in the name of Zen. To be fair, this is not just a problem of Zen. It arises in various Buddhist communities, and more widely in other religious
congregations. We are unfortunately susceptible to enthrallment, which is hardly “seeing things as they really are.”  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/02/12/us/Joshu-Sasaki-investigation-report.html

Organised abuse and the politics of disbelief
Michael Salter
Faculty of Law
Faculty of Medicine
University of New South Wales
m.salter@unsw.edu.au

Organised abuse refers to any incident of child sexual abuse in which multiple adults act in a coordinated or premeditated way to sexually abuse multiple children.1 Although it is a relatively infrequent form of sexual abuse, organised abuse has been amongst the most incendiary issues in debates on child sexual abuse over the last thirty years (see Brown, Scheflin et al. 1998; Kitzinger 2004). This paper will explore how organised abuse came to play a central role in conflicts over the signification of child sexual abuse. As narratives of sexual violence have gained increasingly
legitimacy in the public eye, it seems that organised abuse has come to represent a new frontier of disbelief….

Conclusion

During a period in which women and children’s testimony of incest and sexual abuse were gaining an increasingly sympathetic hearing, lobby groups of people accused of child abuse construed and positioned “ritual abuse” as the new frontier of disbelief. The term “ritual abuse” arose from child protection and psychotherapy practice with adults and children disclosing organised abuse, only to be discursively encircled by backlash groups with the rhetoric of “recovered memories”, “false allegations” and “moral panic”. Seeking to recast the debate on child abuse according to an older politics of disbelief, these groups and activists attempted to characterise sexual abuse testimony, as a whole, through the lens of “ritual abuse”:…

It does not take much effort to understand why people accused of child sexual abuse may engage in a vigorous defence of their innocence, nor why they might be joined by professional defence experts that make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year defending them. What does bear explaining is the purchase that their rhetoric found in the media, academia and the broader community. It seems that many Australian journalists and academics held deep seated concerns about the credibility of women and children as reliable witnesses to their own lives. After a period of relatively sympathetic media coverage on sexual violence, organised abuse was used as a frame
through which concerns about women and children’s testimony could be made legitimate again. The impact of this rhetorical strategy on the lives of adults and children with a history of organised abuse has yet to be measured, however, the controversy that has been the hallmark of the politics of disbelief has effectively displaced reasoned consideration of the challenges posed by organised and ritual abuse. It seems that reports of organised abuse can be overlooked, ignored, or displaced onto minority groups, but it is too troubling a subject to approach directly without a framework of disbelief. Over the last thirty years, that framework has been in ready supply, stemming both from the long-standing medico-legal tradition of denial, and from the activism of lobby groups of people accused of sexual abuse.

Proceedings of the 2nd Australian & New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference
19 – 20 June 2008 Sydney, Australia

Presented by the Crime & Justice Research Network and the
Australian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Network
Edited by Chris Cunneen & Michael Salter

Published by The Crime and Justice Research Network
University of New South Wales
December, 2008
http://www.cjrn.unsw.edu.au
ISBN: 9780646507378 (pdf)

NCRJ Reveals Itself
February 9th, 2013

There was a powerful article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on January 27 about the devastating effects of child pornography on victims whose images have been spread around the world on the Internet.  It is the kind of article that would seem to generate only sympathy and concern for victims. But the “National Center for Reason and Justice” proved otherwise. This…organization used the occasion to question whether real harms occurred and to smear Dr. Joyanna Silberg, one of the therapists named in the article. In a letter to the New York Times, published on the NCRJ website, the president of the organization, defense lawyer Michael Snedeker, claimed that “Joyanna Silberg, the therapist of one young woman in the story, is notorious for advocating the debunked myth of satanic ritual child abuse.” Snedeker also asserted that “obsessive attention paid to victims can paradoxically make their feelings of trauma worse, or even cause them in the first place.” He closed by expressing concern about giving “pseudoscientific, dangerous therapists another gravy train.”

These statements are wrong in every particular. Dr. Silberg is not even the therapist for the woman she mentions in the story! That woman lives in another city. Dr. Silberg merely conducted assesments for the purpose of litigation. Dr. Silberg did not receive a percentage of any legal judgments, nor has she received any payment other than the set fees for conducting an evaluation. The insinuation that she may have engaged in therapy that made the woman worse is beyond false, it is defamatory….It is clear from the article that what Snedeker calls “feelings of trauma” were hardly caused by the therapists in this case. They were caused by the appalling actions of those who took these images and disseminated them. Moreover, Dr. Silberg has never advocated or endorsed anything pertaining to satanic ritual abuse. Instead, she is apparently a target for these smears because she has spoken up for victims of sexual abuse through the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence.
http://blogs.brown.edu/recoveredmemory/2013/02/09/ncrj-reveals-itself/

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