Krishna movement tries to locate possible abuse victims

Associated Press/April 30, 2003

Six Hare Krishna temples in California, along with several other Krishna organizations here and in West Virginia, will place legal notices in major newspapers and magazines in hopes of identifying children who may have been sexually abused or mistreated at boarding schools during the 1970s and 1980s.

The alleged abuse is detailed in a lawsuit that prompted the Krishna movement, which is known officially as the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, to file for bankruptcy last year. The more than 90 alleged victims claim they were raped or physically abused while living in Krishna boarding schools, known as ashram-based gurukulas. In the United States, schools were in Los Angeles and Three Rivers, Calif., Moundsville, W. Va., and Dallas. Other boarding schools were in India.

On Wednesday, the Krishna temples will place legal notices in various publications and even on Web sites as part of the bankruptcy process. Krishna leaders urge victims to make claims if they want to be compensated under a proposed bankruptcy reorganization plan.

The suit was filed in 2000 in Texas against the Los Angeles, Moundsville and Dallas schools.

Victims were subjected to "the most unthinkable abuse and maltreatment of little children which we have seen. It includes rape, sexual abuse, physical torture and emotional terror of children as young as 3 years of age," Wendell Turley, the Texas plaintiffs' lawyer who is handling the suit, said when it was filed.

The Krishna society said it put anti-abuse safeguards beginning in 1990, including mandatory training in abuse prevention and the reporting of allegations of abuse to government authorities.

A Los Angeles attorney for the Krishna movement, David Liberman, said the Krishna society hopes to settle as many cases as possible under the proposed bankruptcy proceedings, including cases of those who have not yet filed suit. He said the reorganization plan will be submitted to federal bankruptcy courts in California and West Virginia in June.

The Krishna movement reports about 75,000 members in the United States and claims 10,000 temple devotees, who live at Krishna temples, and 250,000 congregational devotees worldwide.

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