Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Moving from 16 Days of Activism to 365 Days of Action
By Krishna Prana Devi Dasi   |  Dec 11, 2023

ISKCON’s GBC Statement Against Domestic Abuse from 2020 says, “Domestic abuse is indefensible, often illegal, and never acceptable within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Any interpretation of Vaishnava religious or social teachings that condones, endorses, or justifies domestic abuse is rejected by the North American Governing Body Commission (GBC).”  – see GBC Resolution Against Domestic Abuse here.

Throughout Prabhupada’s teachings, we find numerous references to the importance of the care and protection of women and its vital connection to the success and welfare of society. 

Globally, 1 in 3 women will experience abuse from an intimate partner. (This figure does not include sexual harassment.) Every hour, more than five women are killed by a member of their family — that is, 120 women killed every day, or 43,800 killed every year by the individuals who are supposed to be their protectors. Needless to say, the abuse of women is a global pandemic.

The sad reality is that abuse does occur within our ISKCON communities; more heartbreaking still is the fact that we as a society are ill-equipped to handle abusive incidents. In recognition of the reality of this pandemic, the GBC passed a resolution condemning domestic abuse (see first paragraph). While it is essential that we have legislation, or in our case, GBC resolutions, ultimately, these resolutions are only as powerful as their application on the ground level. In order to effectively ensure that all our communities are the places of refuge and safety that Prabhupada envisioned, we need to build practical systems of response and support on the ground level.

One of the most significant challenges that ISKCON faces in adequately dealing with abuse is the lack of resources. However, this is something that we need help to do. Prabhupada often spoke of yukta vairagya, using everything in Krishna’s service. The protection of Krishna’s devotees is one such instance where we can utilize resources that are available both within our institution and within the society at large.

The Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention Programme (IPA) is an initiative intended to provide an initial point of contact to whom Vaishnavis can turn during moments of IPA. She gives them a judgment-free, confidential space where they receive validation and strength to make the next step to contact one of these agencies from the representative’s resource list. The reality is that the majority of our organization is volunteer-based, and we do not have the infrastructure within our communities for full-time support for mental health, legal advocacy, etc. Therefore, it is imperative that we utilize resources from the secular world, especially that of law enforcement.

The IPA is still in its early stages, focusing much of its efforts on developing resources that can be deployed in any community. This resource package is in the process of being piloted this year in North America at the ISKCON Phoenix and ISKCON DC communities. The package includes a policy document to help leaders implement ISKCON’s Statement Against Domestic Abuse, a decision tree that is designed to help respond to cases of IPA, and a suggested calendar of events to keep IPA Prevention a relevant topic throughout the year.

(For leaders/temple management interested in having access to IPA resources to use in their communities, or if any temple is interested in participating in this pilot program, please contact the ISKCON Vaishnavi Ministry)

The unfortunate reality is that 85% of incidents of intimate partner abuse are perpetrated by men against women. As such, the IPA Prevention Initiative has explicitly focused on supporting Vaishnavis undergoing situations of IPA. The representative is not meant to be an expert in any of these areas where support is required, nor is she meant to be an ongoing long-term support. The role is intended to be an initial point of contact with the intention of connecting the victim to proper, long-term support systems.

While in North America, Domestic Abuse agencies include specialized resources such as counseling, victim services, transition housing, etc., all of which tend to be free or extremely low cost, not all countries have developed support systems. As part of our service to Srila Prabhupada in the care of Krishna’s devotees, we desire to ensure that every Vaishnavi has the support that she needs. In order to do this, we need the support of leaders and communities. Currently, 60 IPA representatives support ISKCON centers in the US and Canada. We desire to expand this network both within North America and around the world.

Even if you are not in a position to become an advocate or activist, we can all show our support through kindness and compassion. Isolation is one of the strongest weapons that abusers use. If you are concerned about someone being in an abusive situation or feeling unsafe, here are some simple things that you can do to show your support:

  1. Stay in touch: Ask your friend the best way to contact them, as abusers are often very controlling of communication. Staying in touch is one of the most powerful things that you can do to help.
  2. Be supportive: Reassure your friend that they are not alone.
  3. Help make a plan: Find simple ways to help them get through this time safely. You can also help them make a safety plan for when they are ready to leave. Click here to learn more about a safety plan. 
  4. Share resources: let your friend know about local helplines. This must be done in a gentle and supportive way, without force or judgment.

For more information, visit the Vaishnavi Ministry website or email them.