Invitation To Abuse Survivors
to Participate In The Project Sunshine
Shambhala Abuse Awareness Campaign
Project Sunshine is a one-year project that was launched on Shambhala Day 2017 to (1) establish a working body of concerned citizens to address the situation of sexual and social abuse in the Shambhala community, and (2) create a promotional campaign to start a productive conversation about this situation on a community-wide level.
We are actively seeking written submissions from survivors of abuse within the Shambhala community to be part of the Project Sunshine final report being published February 15th, 2018 (Note: the deadline for submission of your story is February 8th).
As a survivor myself, I know this is a big thing to ask. It is also exciting, because you get to play an active role in opening this problem up in the community, and gather momentum for change. This is about getting the community together to talk. We are gathering these stories because we want people to be emotionally affected by this.
The goal of this awareness campaign is to
get the community thinking about this situation and for them to care.
This phase of the work is about raising awareness. This is not about accusing an individual. Creating structures for justice will follow, and that will be the right time to name the abusers.
- Anonymous: no names and no historical features that reveal identities
- 1 page – 250 words – with two sections:
- Your Story – written with love and self-respect
- Impact – how has experiencing this abuse impacted your quality of life, including sense of well-being, relationships, finances, etc.
- Must be submitted by email to Andrea at email@example.com NO LATER THAN FEBRUARY 8TH
You can see two abuse story examples below. I am willing to assist with editing your story, if that will be helpful.
If you are interested, please email Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org
KI KI SO SO!
Story & Impact Statement #1
I grew up in the Shambhala community. I was sexually abused by several men. The greatest impact came from one, who I will call John. When I was a teenager, I did my first serving shift with a primary teacher in the teacher’s residence. John was close with the family and living in the same house. I had to pass by his room every time I did something for the principle I was serving. John kept stopping me at his door to talk with him. Then, one time he asked me to come in the room and shut the door. He was sitting under the covers of his bed and removed the covers and I saw he was naked on the bottom half. He had me sit by him on the bed and told me to kiss his penis. I was young, a girl, and I wanted to respect him and “be nice”. I was profoundly confused. A friend of mine years later was physically attacked by John, and five of us dharma brats came to my friend saying we had been abused by John. This is when I learned his child abuse was wide spread. The rape counsellor I was seeing said that if five of us came forward, there were likely many more who had been abused by him since it is rare for anyone to speak about child abuse. I spoke about my experience of child abuse in my local community. The leadership held secret meetings and sent me a threatening email telling me to stop speaking about the abuse.
My experience of abuse in the Shambhala community has impacted my life over the decades. Every intimate relationship I’ve been in has been a high intensity nightmare. I want to be close with someone, but I am terrified. It’s like I don’t have the ground within me to build healthy trust. Having been both sexually abused and demonized by my community when I spoke about it, I have had no community connection for over 15 years. I’ve resorted to living very alone. For instance, recently I had a bad pneumonia and nearly died. I had no one in my life to visit me in the hospital, except for one Christian man who saw it as his Christian duty to visit me twice. It’s hard to admit this, but my intense loneliness hits me at night. I stuff myself with food and watch TV until late. I am quite sad about this. My rape counsellor says this profound loneliness is part of the cost. I love the Vidyadhara and I am deeply committed to Shambhala. At the same time, having been abused by many leaders in the community tears at the fabric of my being. The psychological pressure has been overwhelming. It has been hard to establish a life and also hard to have a meaningful or safe relationship with meditation.
Story & Impact Statement #2
I was staffing a Shambhala Level 5 around 15 years ago. The visiting teacher was particularly exciting, and I was caught off guard in her Saturday evening talk. She said people in therapy just moan and groan, and she said it several times. She said it yet again in the question and answer period, and I raised my hand. When she called on me I said, “I find your statements about people in therapy insensitive. I was sexually abused throughout my childhood in the Shambhala community, as were most of the children, and I got a lot from therapy that the Shambhala teachings never helped me with. I wonder if this kind of insensitivity is why the adults allowed so much sexual abuse to happen to us kids.” The teacher sat fully upright as a warrior, and there was a pregnant silence. Then she replied, “Maybe you will teach us that sensitivity.”
Despite her response, the local leadership was terrified. I had been a dedicated leader for years in this community, and the council chose to meet secretly about me. Of note, three of my best friends and my Meditation Instructor were part of these meetings. The council then sent me an email telling me to: (1) stop doing any teaching, (2) step down as leader of the small Shambhala LGBT sub-community I had started, and (3) stop talking about inappropriate things.
Over the next 6 months I met with two visiting teachers – an Acharya and a senior ranking Kasung officer – explaining what was happening and asking for their help. Both refused to help. I felt at that point that I had no choice but to leave the Shambhala community.
Years later I bumped into one of the participants of that Level 5. He said he missed seeing me around. I said that the leadership had gotten upset about my talking about the childhood sex abuse problem because it could negatively affect newer students. He replied that his experience was quite the opposite; when he heard us talking openly and respectfully about the abuse, it heartened him and made him see us as a healthy community.
It is hard to succinctly describe the impact these abuses have had on me. The original sexual abuse has made it very hard to feel safe in my body. As an adult, I felt profoundly betrayed by my good friends and Meditation Instructor, people who I trusted. I believed they felt connected with me and loyal to me in a way that could weather an upheaval. I stopped trusting people through this and have socially isolated myself for over 15 years. Although I am intensely lonely, I seem unable to form intimate connections because I am terrified of experiencing a betrayal like this again. Even with no sangha, I am a diehard practitioner and have continued my Vajrayogini and werma practices on my own all these years. I’ve been limping along at a snail’s pace, lacking the vibrancy that comes from participating in programs, having an MI, and being part of a sangha. Inside, I feel like a very long, cold winter with no hope of the warmth of the spring.
My bodhisattva name is, Changchup Serpe – Enlightenment Gold Lotus.
I aspire for Project Sunshine to be an embodiment of this quality.