A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Abuse - Reporting

A promise of confidentiality given under duress is not binding, as it is a common tactic used by abusers to conceal misconduct. It is all the more reason to seek professional assistance and civil protection and to report the matter to Bahá’í institutions.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.62).


An Assembly must report to the authorities any alleged or suspected instances of child abuse, whether this information comes to its attention as the result of a formal report to the Assembly, or through other means. This is both a moral and a legal responsibility … Regardless of the letter of the law, an Assembly’s overriding responsibility is to ensure that any such case of suspected or reported child abuse is immediately communicated to the authorities, so that those agencies charged by society with the protection of those who are at risk, are able to act swiftly and bring all of their skill and training to bear upon the situation. The analysis of whether indeed the child is in any danger rests fully with the authorities and not with those [including the Assembly] who may receive such a report or have such a suspicion. While the foregoing refers specifically to abuse of children, Assemblies should be aware that in addition to children and women, the elderly, men and particularly young men, can also be victims of abuse. Any such case that comes to an Assembly’s attention should be treated according to the principles in this policy.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Canadian Bahá’í News, Kalimát, B.E. 150, p. 44)


In general, it is preferable that the abused person rather than a third party bring the issue to a Local Assembly. In some cases, the abused person may be willing to go to an Assembly if accompanied by a friend. However, there may be situations in which the abused person does not want to go to an Assembly directly and also does not want anyone else to bring the matter to an Assembly. If the abuse is severe, this may present the third party with a difficult decision. In some situations, reporting domestic violence to an Assembly might further endanger the abused party, particularly if there were to be a breach of Assembly confidentiality and the abuser were to become aware of the report. This danger is particularly apparent when the alleged abuser, or a relative or close friend of the alleged abuser, serves on the Assembly. Any individual who is not sure how to proceed in a situation of domestic violence is encouraged to request guidance from the National Assembly.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 63).


In some situations, reporting domestic violence to an Assembly might further endanger the abused party if the abuser serves on the Assembly. When an Assembly Secretary or any other member receives a report of abuse and the alleged abuser or a relative or close friend of the abuser serves on the Assembly, it is suggested that the person receiving the report contact the National Spiritual Assembly for guidance on how to proceed.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 67).


It is apparent that some assistance is needed for Assemblies in …, and the Counselling Committees working under their direction, to have further guidance in the means by which their investigative functions can best be performed. The House of Justice believes this is best accomplished through their deepening more fully in the principles of consultation described by the Master and elaborated further in the writings of the Guardian, and also in the nature of Bahá’í law. The members of these administrative bodies should strive for a heightened consciousness of the heavy responsibilities resting upon them in carrying out their functions, and for a deeper awareness of the reality and potency of the spiritual forces to which they have access, through the prayerful and consecrated attitude with which they approach their tasks, in the search for truth and the pursuit of justice. Through this deepening they will be enabled to determine what is the best approach to be followed in each particular situation with which they are confronted. They will also be able to preserve that flexibility which is so very important at this early stage in the development of the Administrative Order.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 15 January, 1992)


Should an allegation of child abuse arise at a local Bahá’í school or from other children’s classes or activities – regardless of whether the alleged abuse occurred at the Bahá’í activity, in the home, or elsewhere – the allegation should be reported promptly to the sponsoring Local Spiritual Assembly, to the child’s Local Assembly, or to the National Spiritual Assembly, which will then have the responsibility to contact civil authorities. In some situations, reporting child abuse to a Local Assembly might further endanger the child or others in the family, if there were to be a breach of Assembly confidentiality and the abuser were to become aware of the report. This danger is particularly apparent when the alleged abuser, or a relative or close friend of the alleged abuser, serves on the Assembly. Any individual who is not sure how to proceed in a child abuse situation is encouraged to request guidance from the National Assembly.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 89).


The Bahá’í approach to the administration of the laws of the Faith is fundamentally different from that used by non-Bahá’í judicial bodies in the investigation of alleged behavioural delinquencies. This difference arises from the spiritual nature of the Assembly’s deliberations, the importance of a prayerful attitude, the due weight given to the preservation of the unity and integrity of the Bahá’í community, and the distinctive character of Bahá’í law as a means for individual spiritual development.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 15 January, 1992)


The House of Justice does not feel that it is appropriate, at this time, to attempt to define a detailed procedure of steps to be taken in carrying out such an investigation. Every case is different and every individual has his or her own particular circumstances which must be taken into account. In reviewing the procedure proposed to you, it is apparent to the House of Justice that there may well be circumstances in which this would not be the best course of action. Likewise, the process to be followed for the investigation may only become apparent progressively, and could not be outlined at the beginning.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 15 January, 1992)


The House of Justice is aware that, in some civic jurisdictions in other countries, reporting requirements do not apply to religious institutions. This is a derivation on what is commonly called the “priest-penitent privilege”. In light of the relatively strong position of the Christian churches in some provinces in …, you may want to further research this point, if you have not already done so. Should religious institutions be exempt from reporting in any or all provinces, this would not, of course, mean that an Assembly should not, or may not, report an instance of child abuse to authorities. Rather, it raises the question of whether it should presume, based on the National Assembly’s disseminated policy, that it is legally required to report the issue to the authorities.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 4 August, 1996)


The term “vulnerable person(s) or people” as used in this Policy refers not only to people who are typically recognized as vulnerable, such as children, youth under the age of 18, elderly, those coming from an abusive relationship, and the mentally and physically disabled, but also to those otherwise healthy adults who are vulnerable because of recent life tests or experiences.
(NSA of Canada’s Screening Policy Statement)


This motivation [to change] is often propelled by the courage of those who report the offence, even in the face of the possibility of temporarily increasing the danger to the victim. Allowing the situation to continue, by silence, may very well be the greater evil.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Canadian Bahá’í News, Kalimát, B.E. 150, p. 44)


While an Assembly should not and is not competent to determine whether a child is truly at risk, it is competent, and may have an obligation, to determine whether the allegation has some reasonable basis and the manner in which to proceed with
reporting requirements.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 4 August, 1996)


While it can be a severe test to a Bahá’í to see fellow believers violating Bahá’í laws or engaging in conduct inimical to the welfare and best interests of the Faith, there is no fixed rule that a believer must follow when such conduct comes to his notice. A great deal depends upon the seriousness of the offense and upon the relationship which exists between him and the offender. If the misconduct is blatant and flagrant or threatens the interests of the Faith the believer to whose attention it comes should immediately report it to the Local Spiritual Assembly. Once it is in the hands of the Assembly the believer’s obligation is discharged and he should do no more than pray for the offender and continue to show him friendship and encouragement- unless, of course, the Spiritual Assembly asks him to take specific action … If, for some reason, he is reluctant at that stage to inform his Spiritual Assembly, he can consult an Auxiliary Board member or assistant.
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, dated February 20, 1977)


… in situations where the alleged abuser or relative or close friend of the alleged abuser is a member of the Assembly, it is suggested that the Assembly member receiving the report contact the National Spiritual Assembly for guidance rather than conveying the report directly to the Local Assembly.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 77).