When the details of Rigpa’s ‘Independent’ investigation were released last December, I posted an article on the matter, and we heard nothing more until I was given the update on the investigation I posted last week. The contents of that blog post were the opinion of one person, who had nothing to do with writing the letter revealing the abuse and was never a Rigpa student. I have also been informed that he had no actual role in the negotiations over the investigation.
The comments on that update raised issues about the assurances reported and reminded me of issues around the investigation that we’ve pointed out here before, that haven’t changed and that should not be forgotten when evaluating the function and usefulness of the investigation. This follow up is to clarify some points and remind us of the questions we need to keep asking.
New assurances have been made via email, but to date none of the new assurances have been shared publicly by Rigpa or Lewis Silken, so it’s questionable how useful these assurances are. Have they come from an entity that is vested with the authority to speak for all official Rigpa entities? If so why not produce written proof that is legally binding? Even if it is proven that the Investigating Committee can make binding agreements for all Rigpa entities worldwide I suspect that wouldn’t include a group of individuals like the Rigpa community in LL who are currently suing an attorney who said something they didn’t like.
The original agreement between Lewis Silkin and Rigpa US and Rigpa UK has not changed. This includes this part relating to confidentiality: “We have agreed that all interviews conducted as part of the investigation will be protected by confidentiality and not shared with Rigpa, or anyone else unless the witness specifically agrees to this, or we are required disclose this information by law.”
So Lewis Silken will not share your name with Rigpa or anyone else unless a judge in a legal case in the UK asks for the info. In that case LS would have to hand over whatever the judge requested for him or her to use in the proceedings in what ever way he or she saw fit.
It seems to me that since the report will not use anyone’s names without their permission, it’s unlikely that anyone would take someone to court over the report, because how would they know who to sue? But a judge on a related legal case – were there to be one – could ask for the information if he or she deemed it relevant. So it’s possible your information and name may end up with a judge, but as far as I can tell it’s pretty unlikely.
Don’t forget that an Olive Branch does guarantee anonymity, however, so perhaps students wanting a more reliable result from an investigation could demand that the Olive Branch investigation be expanded to take testimony from all countries?
The aim of this clarification is not to put you off participating in the investigation, it’s just to make sure that you see the full picture.
Questions to remember
· Who chose Lewis Silken? Answer: From an email from Kathryn James on Thursday, September 14, 2017 Subject: personal thoughts, updates and some information; she wrote to Rigpa members in Australia, ” The investigation – Philip Philippou has started interviewing potential investigators.”
· Who, apart from Sogyal, has the most to lose from a report unfavourable to Rigpa?
· Why are Rigpa investigating something that those in the inner circle, and many in upper management, already know to be true? We were told that it was because they had to have an investigation in order to retain charitable status in the UK and US, but it’s been verified that no such law exists in either country.
· Why hire such a high profile and expensive firm?
From the Lewis Silken website: “I help my clients to deal with any employment law challenges which come their way and aim to make the process as smooth as possible for them.” http://www.lewissilkin.com/People/Karen-Baxter
· Who are the client? Answer: Rigpa US and Rigpa UK. Not you, the person who has suffered abuse. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that KB is working for you. She is working for her client, and regardless of her professional standards, which I am not calling into question, she will still do her best for them, not for you.
· If you expect the report to expose the truth then ask yourself; why would anyone pay what might amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own downfall?
· Is an investigation into abuse where the investigating team is hired by and paid for by the perpetrator ever truly independent?
· Given their 40 years’ experience of covering up the abuse, do you think that this isn’t part of their PR game plan? They have hired high powered PR firms in the past, it’s logical to assume this ‘campaign’ is being planned by professionals.
For me it comes down to the issue of trust. It would be nice to think that we could trust Rigpa management and Sogyal, but they have broken our trust. Can they ever get it back?
Other investigations are happening, so consider giving your testimony to them. Click here for contact details for all of them.
Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their Rigpa dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
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