14 September 2017
Violence under the name of ‘Buddhism’ is not Buddhism
If you are worried about the ever-worsening Buddhist-led violence against the mostly-Muslim Rohingya in Burma … so are we.
It is a principle of our Triratna Buddhist community that no single person can speak for us all, which means the following comments are personal statements made individually. They are not ‘Triratna statements’ even though other members of our Order may agree individually.
Personally, I believe that violence under the name of ‘Buddhism’ is not Buddhism. And it is really easy to find explicit teachings of the Buddha that make this point. I believe those who commit violent hateful actions in the name of ‘Buddhism’ have clearly put themselves outside the practises taught by the Buddha. For example, the famous lines below from the Dhammapada as translated by the founder of our Order (Ven. Sangharakshita).
Not by hatred are hatreds ever pacified here in the world.
They are pacified by love.
This is the eternal law.
For other statements from our Order, you can listen to Vishvapani’s BBC radio broadcast on the topic.
Or you can read the signed statement from our founder and senior members of the Triratna Buddhist Order.
28 June 2017
1. Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy and Guidelines
This document is for Friends, Mitras and Order members involved in the Wellington Buddhist Centre activities as employees, volunteers, leaders, teachers or parents. It sets out practices and procedures contributing to the prevention of abuse of vulnerable adults. It also sets out a course of action to be followed if abuse is suspected.
It is aimed at protecting both vulnerable adults attending Wellington Buddhist Centre activities, and Friends, Mitras and Order members working with them.
1.1 Who is a ‘vulnerable adult’?
A vulnerable adult is a person aged 18 years or over who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is, or may be, unable to take care of him/herself, or unable to protect him/herself against significant harm or exploitation.
A vulnerable adult may be a person who:
- Has a physical or sensory disability
- Is physically frail or has a chronic illness
- Has a mental illness or dementia
- Has a learning disability
- Is old and frail
- Misuses drugs and/or alcohol
- Has social or emotional problems
- Exhibits challenging behaviour
Whether or not a person is vulnerable in these cases will vary according to circumstances. Each case must be judged on its own merits.
1.2 What is ‘abuse’?
Abuse is the harming of a person usually by someone who is in a position of power, trust or authority over them, or who may be perceived by that person to be in a position of power, trust or authority over them; for example by a Friend, Mitra or Order member who is helping to run Wellington Buddhist Centre activities for those newer to such activities. The harm may be physical, psychological or emotional, or it may exploit the vulnerability of the victim in more subtle ways.
1.3 Types of abuse
Types of abuse include physical, sexual, psychological/emotional, financial/material and, also, discriminatory language.
1.4 People who might abuse
Abuse may happen anywhere and may be carried out by anyone, including Order members, Mitras and Friends, whether financially supported or volunteering, other users of the Wellington Buddhist Centre and strangers or visitors to the Wellington Buddhist Centre. In addition, a vulnerable adult might talk to an Order member, Mitra or Friend about abuse they are experiencing at home or in other aspects of their daily life.
1.5 Reporting abuse
All allegations or suspicions are to be treated seriously. No abuse is acceptable.
- Some abuse may be a criminal offence and should be reported to the police as soon as possible.
- The employee or volunteer’s primary responsibility is to protect the vulnerable adult if they are at risk.
- Each employee or volunteer has a duty to take action.
1.6 What to do if a vulnerable adult reports abuse to you
- Stay calm
- Listen patiently
- Reassure the person they are doing the right thing by telling you
- Clarify issues of confidentiality early on. Make it clear that you will have to discuss their concerns with others
- Explain what you are going to do
- Write a factual account of what you have seen and heard, immediately
- Appear shocked, horrified, disgusted or angry
- Press the individual for details
- Make comments or judgments other than to show concern
- Promise to keep secrets
- Confront the abuser
- Risk contaminating the evidence
1.7 What to do next
When deciding whether to refer the matter to others (e.g. to the Chair and Safeguarding officer of Wellington Buddhist Centre, police or social services) consider the following:
- The wishes of the vulnerable adult and their right to self-determination
- The mental capacity of the vulnerable adult
- Known indicators of abuse
- Definitions of abuse
- Level of risk to the individual
- The seriousness of the abuse
- The effect of the abuse on the individual
- Level of risk to others
- The effect of the abuse on others
- Whether a criminal offence has been committed
- Whether other statutory obligations have been breached
- The need for others to know
- The ability of others (eg police, social services) to make a positive contribution to the situation
Where a vulnerable adult expresses a wish for concerns not to be pursued, this should be respected wherever possible. However, decisions about whether to respect their wishes must have regard to the level of risk to the individual and others, and their capacity to understand the decision in question. In some circumstances the vulnerable adult’s wishes may be overridden in favour of considerations of safety.
The consent of the vulnerable adult must be obtained except where:
- The vulnerable adult lacks the mental capacity to make a decision, and a risk assessment indicates that referral would be in their best interests
- Others may be at risk
- A crime has been committed
2. Wellington Buddhist Centre Child Protection Policy
2.1 The purpose of this document
This document is for Friends, Mitras and Order members involved in the Wellington Buddhist Centre activities as employees, volunteers, leaders, teachers or parents.
It aims to provide:
- Protection for children under 18 years of age who visit or receive Wellington Buddhist Centre services including children of Buddhists and other users of this Buddhist Centre and
- Protection for Friends, Mitras and Order members who may have contact with children.
It sets out
- practices and procedures contributing to the prevention of abuse of children.
- a course of action to be followed if abuse is suspected.
2.2 Our Values
The Wellington Buddhist Centre is a Buddhist charity run by members of the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community. Some of its activities may involve children and young people, example, on sangha days or family retreats.
The trustees of the Wellington Buddhist Centre recognise their responsibility to ensure the welfare of all children under 18 years old visiting or involved in Buddhist Centre activities, and are committed to their protection.
Mettadharani is our Designated Person, responsible for the protection of children and vulnerable adults at the Wellington Buddhist Centre. (See also our Vulnerable Adults Protection policy.)
We recognise that:
- the welfare of the child is paramount.
- all children, regardless of age, disability, gender, ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation or identity, have the right to equal protection from harm.
- partnership with children, young people, their parents, carers and other agencies is essential in promoting young people’s welfare.
This policy applies to all staff, including the Centre team and trustees, paid staff, volunteers, parents and anyone else working on behalf of the Wellington Buddhist Centre whether as a Friend, Mitra or Order member.
We will seek to safeguard children and young people by:
- valuing them, listening to and respecting them.
- adopting child protection guidelines and a code of conduct for staff and volunteers.
- recruiting staff and volunteers safely, ensuring checks are made where necessary.
- sharing information about child protection and good practice with children, parents, staff and volunteers.
- sharing information about concerns with agencies who need to know, and involving parents and children appropriately.
- providing effective management for staff and volunteers through supervision, support and training.
This policy is an expression of our commitment to the Five Precepts taught by the Buddha:
2.2.1. Behaviour to develop
- stillness, simplicity and contentment
- truthful speech
- mindfulness; awareness
2.2.2. Behaviour to avoid
- harming living beings
- taking the not-given
- sexual misconduct
- false speech
- taking intoxicants that cloud the mind
2.3 Who is a “child”?
A “child” is a person aged under 18 years.
2.4 What is “child abuse”?
The World Health Organisation defines “Child abuse” as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill- treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.”
2.4.1 Types of cruelty
- Physical abuse including hurting or injuring a child.
- Sexual abuse including direct or indirect sexual exploitation or corruption of children by involving them (or threatening to involve them) in inappropriate sexual activities.
- Emotional abuse Repeatedly rejecting children, humiliating them or denying their worth and rights as human beings.
- Neglect The persistent lack of appropriate care of children, including love, stimulation, safety, nourishment, warmth, education, and medical
A child who is being abused may experience more than one type of cruelty. Discrimination, harassment, and bullying are also abusive and can harm a child, both physically and emotionally.
2.5 Signs of abuse
These are many and varied. Some have perfectly acceptable explanations. It is useful to bear in mind:
- Any injuries that cannot be explained
- Injuries not consistent with falls or rough games
- Any allegations made by children concerning abuse
- Sexual activity through words, play or drawing
- Eating disorders
2.6 Reporting abuse
All reports or suspicions about abuse must be treated seriously. They may include
- Something you see
- Something you are told by someone else
- Rumours about a person’s previous behaviour
- Behaviour you observe in a child
- Disclosure from a child directly.
2.7 What to do if a child reports abuse
Keep calm and reassure the child that they are doing the right thing and are not to blame, even if they have broken some rules.
- Accept what the child says without judgment.
- Look directly at the child.
- Be honest. Do not promise confidentiality; let them know you will have to tell someone else.
- Be aware the child may have been threatened and may be very afraid.
- Never push for information or question the child. Let them tell you as much as they are ready to tell you.
- Never suggest that the child may be wrong or mistaken.
2.8 What to do next
Ensure the safety of the child. This may involve phoning social services or police straight away.
- If you make a referral by telephone, confirm it in writing within 24 hours.
- Make notes about the discussion including time, date, location. Record as accurately as possible and keep the notes safe.
- Do not be tempted to investigate yourself.
- Tell the Wellington Buddhist Centre’s Designated Person named at the start of this document, the Chair or the President.
- Do not discuss the matter with anyone else. This could prejudice a court case and put the child in danger.
- Contact social services or the police and ask for the Child protection officer.
2.9 How to protect children and yourself
See the Wellington Buddhist Centre’s Protection code of conduct which accompanies this policy.
If working with a school or other body working with children (for example the Scouts) advise their staff that their teachers/leaders must be present at all times during the visit/joint activities.
- Do not be alone with a child where other adults or children cannot see you.
- Treat all children and young people with respect and dignity.
- Do not invade the privacy of children when they are showering, changing or using the toilet.
- Do not engage in intrusive touching.
- Do not tease or joke in a way that might be misunderstood by the child and cause hurt.
- Do not share sleeping accommodation with children.
- Do not invite a child to your home on their own. Invite a group or ensure someone else is in the house. Make sure the parents know where the child is.
- Do not give lifts to children on their own other than for very short journeys. If they are alone, ask them to sit in the back of the car.
- Do not allow someone who is likely to pose a risk to children to have contact with children (i.e., a known sex offender or someone who has disclosed a sexual interest in children).
- Such a person should be asked to negotiate a behaviour contract setting out the terms of their continued participation in Wellington Buddhist Centre activities within agreed boundaries.
2.10 Reviewing this document
This document and the accompanying Wellington Buddhist Centre Child protection code of conduct and Vulnerable Adults Protection policy will be reviewed annually on or around the date below.