THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
WHO ARE THE PARTIES INVOLVED IN RESPONDING TO THE ALLEGATIONS?
1. Who is the Siri Singh Sahib Corp (SSSC)?
SSSC is a religious nonprofit corporation and is the sole member of KRI and 3HO, both of which are nonprofit public benefit corporations. Learn more at www.ssscorp.org.
2. Who is on the Collaborative Response Team (CRT)?
The CRT is a group of people representing the nonprofit and for-profit entities, empowered by the SSSC in a resolution dated February 12, 2020. The CRT has been formed by the SSSC with the duty to respond effectively and responsibly to the allegations about Yogi Bhajan’s conduct. The CRT will act and communicate based on established best practices, transparency, respect and concern for all involved, and the goal of seeking the truth in all areas of this urgent situation.
The members of the CRT include:
SS Sahaj Singh Khalsa – Siri Singh Sahib Corporation
MSS Nirvair Singh Khalsa – Kundalini Research Institute
SS Gurujot Kaur Khalsa – Sikh Dharma International, Siri Singh Sahib Corporation
SS Pritpal Kaur Khalsa – 3HO Foundation International
SS Shanti Kaur Khalsa – Dharmic Office of Public Affairs (Shanti has recused herself as a member of the CRT due to a potential conflict of interest.)
The CRT is the only official response body representing SSSC, KRI, 3HO, SDI and our other nonprofit organizations.
3. What is the responsibility of the CRT?
The CRT has retained an independent organization to investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct against Yogi Bhajan. Its mission is to follow best practices for organizations receiving such allegations, respect and hear all who make and all who support the allegations, respect and hear all who refute the allegations, and seek the truth through an independent investigation. Every member of the CRT has personal feelings and views; however, they understand that they cannot allow their personal feelings to interfere with carrying out the mission in an impartial and unbiased manner.
ABOUT THE ALLEGATIONS
4. What are the allegations?
Multiple allegations concerning sexual and other forms of misconduct by Yogi Bhajan have come forward in recent weeks. Our organizations take these allegations very seriously. We stand united against abuse of power, sexual abuse, any form of abuse or exploitation, and any use of sexuality as a vehicle for causing harm.
5. How many allegations of sexual misconduct have come forward?
The CRT has received allegations of sexual misconduct by Yogi Bhajan from 16 different individuals, including secretaries, staff or those who otherwise spent time close to him. There are at least seven persons who have made their reports public through books, social media posts and widespread emails. In addition, An Olive Branch has directly received confidential allegations from other individuals.
6. Why did the CRT deem the allegations against Yogi Bhajan “credible” in their first statement dated February 18, 2020?
In January, when new allegations surfaced from several women, SSSC formed the CRT with the sole purpose of responding effectively and responsibly to the new allegations about Yogi Bhajan’s conduct. The CRT acts and communicates based on established best practices, transparency, respect and concern for all involved, and the goal of seeking the truth in all areas of this situation.
After reviewing the new allegations, the CRT deemed the allegations credible based on the type, similarities and number of allegations. Credible means that the allegations are believable and warrant an investigation. Credible does not mean that the CRT has already decided the allegations are true before an investigation has been done. The CRT will respect and hear all who make allegations as well as all who support or refute them. Our primary goal is to seek the truth through an independent investigation.
ABOUT THE INVESTIGATION
7. What is the scope the investigation?
The scope of the investigation is the alleged sexual misconduct by Yogi Bhajan and other related behaviors asserted to have created the circumstances that led to the alleged sexual misconduct.
Other unrelated allegations about Yogi Bhajan and his confidants, the school in India and his organizations are outside the scope of this investigation. An Olive Branch is referring any such reports to the Office of Ethics and Professional Standards (email@example.com).
8. Who is conducting the investigation?
The CRT has chosen an independent organization, An Olive Branch (www.an-olive-branch.org), to complete this important task. They have extensive experience in performing thorough and compassionate investigations of allegations of this nature for spiritual communities worldwide. They will be completing an independent investigation, free from the direction of or control by the CRT or anyone associated with the SSSC.
9. What is the purpose of the investigation?
An Olive Branch is conducting an independent examination of Yogi Bhajan’s behavior in response to the allegations that have been made against him. The purpose is to determine whether and to what extent Yogi Bhajan engaged in sexual and other misconduct. This process will allow our organizations to examine current policies and procedures for supporting reporters of harm and preventing abuse, and to determine how best to move forward. The CRT is following accepted practices that have been created, validated and established by experts in spiritual, religious, government and private organizations all over the world for responding to allegations of this nature.
10. What are the steps in the investigation?
An Olive Branch will attempt to speak with any individuals reporting harm as well as potential witnesses with information supporting or contradicting the claims of misconduct. Once the investigation phase is complete, An Olive Branch will prepare a report of their findings. They will take care to maintain the confidentiality of personal or sensitive information out of respect for participants’ privacy. Witnesses or those who report harm will remain anonymous unless they ask to be identified. The report is expected to be made public in late July or early August 2020.
11: How will the investigator/An Olive Branch determine the validity of the allegations?
An Olive Branch’s staff are experienced interviewers who are skilled at evaluating witness statements. An Olive Branch will question all interviewees to understand the context of the allegations and assess motivation. An Olive Branch is reaching out to Yogi Bhajan’s close confidants, staff and family to test the validity of the allegations. Their approach provides ample opportunity to reach conclusions about the allegations.
12: What is the standard that An Olive Branch will use for investigation results?
As is usual and customary in such investigations, An Olive Branch will use the standard of whether based on relevant and sufficient evidence, it is more likely than not that the alleged behavior occurred. This is NOT a criminal or a civil legal investigation; the goal is to get to the truth where possible, given that the allegations are against a deceased person who cannot speak for himself and the alleged events occurred 20 to 50 years ago.
13. How long will the investigation take?
The interviews began March 9, 2020. An Olive Branch originally expected that it would take 14 to 16 weeks to conduct and complete interviews, compile the findings and publish a full report. However, as the number of individuals electing to participate in the investigation grew dramatically in the final weeks, An Olive Branch has advised that its report completion date is now estimated for late July or early August 2020..
14. Will you share the results of the investigation publicly?
Yes, An Olive Branch will prepare a report of their findings, which will be published in a manner that protects the anonymity of any reporter of harm or witness who wishes to remain anonymous. The report is expected to be made public in late July or early August 2020.
15. Will the investigator/An Olive Branch have any communication with the SSSC or its related organizations during the investigation process?
An Olive Branch will only be communicating with the CRT in order to obtain the information necessary to conduct the investigation. Persons associated with the SSSC and its related organizations may be witnesses during the investigation.
16. How often will the CRT communicate updates on the investigation?
We strive to be transparent as we respond to and investigate the allegations. We will continue to post updates on our website as they become available: www.ssscresponseteam.org.
(NOW CLOSED) HOW TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO THE INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATOR
17. How do I contact the investigator/An Olive Branch?
An Olive Branch has established a dedicated email address for individuals to share relevant experiences in a confidential setting. This email address will remain active through May 3, 2020. If additional time is needed to ensure a thorough investigation, an extension will be considered.
Interviews are private and confidential between the individual and An Olive Branch. They are committed to offering a safe place for all witnesses and reporters of harm to share their experiences and be heard.
18. How do I know if I have information that may be helpful to the investigation?
Information both supporting and refuting the allegations is critically important and is valued by the investigators, who are committed to conducting a complete, independent and balanced investigation.
The allegations involve sexual misconduct and abuse of power by Yogi Bhajan in relation to members of his staff, secretaries and other women who were close to him. If you were around Yogi Bhajan and the women who served him during his life and work, your information may be helpful to the investigation. We encourage you to contact An Olive Branch to share your observations of their actions and interactions during this time.
The period of the allegations stretches from 1970 to the early 2000s. Evidence relevant to the investigation may include:
· Firsthand experiences with and observations regarding Yogi Bhajan and those around him,
· Statements heard that were made by Yogi Bhajan and by others relating to the alleged misconduct, and
· Information about the relationships between Yogi Bhajan and those close to him.
19. Will participation in the investigation impact the current or future legal rights of allegers or reporters of harm?
No. Any information shared with An Olive Branch by reporters of harm or witnesses will not be used against them or impact their legal rights.
20. How does the investigator/An Olive Branch ensure anonymity?
The only people who have access to An Olive Branch’s interview notes are the three co-directors of An Olive Branch, two of whom are working on the investigation. Files are not accessible to outsiders or to anyone in or associated with the SSSC.
21. Will the investigator/An Olive Branch report accounts of abuse to the legal authorities?
Members of An Olive Branch’s staff are mandatory reporters of child and elder abuse. They will report accounts of abuse to the authorities as required by law.
22. What if I wish to report a concern or complaint unrelated to this investigation?
If anyone has concerns or complaints unrelated to this investigation, we encourage them to contact the Office of Ethics and Professional Standards (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will respond to the matter with kindness and respect.
ABOUT THE INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATOR, AN OLIVE BRANCH
23. Why was An Olive Branch chosen to investigate these allegations?
An Olive Branch has a staff of experienced and highly respected investigators. During the course of our due diligence, we found An Olive Branch met the critical requirements to be entrusted with completing this important task, including:
· Experience in investigating claims of sexual misconduct with thoroughness and compassion.
· Experience conducting investigations for and understanding the issues unique to spiritual or religious-based organizations.
· Demonstrated relatability to reporters of harm as well as witnesses.
· Ability to instill confidence that all individuals in the matter will be treated with sensitivity and care.
· Service as an impartial, third-party investigator unconnected with the SSSC organizations.
24. Did the CRT consider other options for an investigative team?
The CRT considered many options for an investigative team and conducted an extensive analysis of other possible investigators. The CRT wanted an impartial third party who had 1) experience investigating the difficult issues of sexual misconduct, 2) appropriate training in interview and evaluation skills, 3) demonstrated ability to establish trust with reporters of harm as well as witnesses, and 4) awareness of the unique issues in handling such matters in a spiritually based setting.
We also concluded that:
· Criminal investigators were deemed not appropriate as this is not a criminal investigation with the ability to compel witness testimony or production of evidence.
· Human resources investigators had ample experience in a “workplace setting” with harassment, but not with sexual misconduct in the context of a spiritual community.
· Judges and lawyers are often distrusted or feared and likely to discourage participation.
An Olive Branch had the most relevant experience and met our four critical requirements.
25. What qualifications and training do the investigators have?
The three consultants from An Olive Branch who are working on this project are all founding members, co-directors and certified mediators. Together, they have advised and counseled 25 organizations experiencing allegations of ethical misconduct by a spiritual leader. An Olive Branch has performed five projects for Buddhist organizations. Of the five projects, two were independent investigations, including interviewing students who reported harm and receiving testimony from supporters of their teacher and rebuttal witnesses. Consequently, An Olive Branch has experience investigating the difficult issues associated with sexual misconduct using critical listening skills and responding sensitively both to those who are reporting trauma and to those defending the accused.
All An Olive Branch consultants have careers in different fields that make them well qualified for the work required by the SSSC to perform an independent investigation. They have graduate-level training and experience in gathering and analyzing qualitative data. As mediators and facilitators, they know how to listen deeply and ask probing questions to tease out important details and distinctions in what people say. Their research backgrounds enable them to ask questions that are guided by social science knowledge, insight and practice, while their project management skills and experience support large-scale inquiries. In their role as independent fact finders for the SSSC, they will be making findings of fact and drawing conclusions which will be set forth in their final report.
COUNSELING SERVICES FOR REPORTERS OF HARM
26. What are you doing to help those who have reported harm?
We extend our deepest sympathies to those who have reported harm. We are making available confidential, professional counseling to any individual asserting harm from the misconduct they have reported.
Beginning April 1, we have engaged Concern (https://www.concernhealth.com), a third-party assistance program, whose staff will perform a confidential intake process of those wishing to enter into counseling. Concern will refer these individuals to one of its recommended and trusted local counselors. Click here for an explanation of how Concern selects its counselors in different localities.
The services are available at no cost to the individual, and their identity will remain private. Anyone reporting harm from the conduct under investigation will be referred to Concern.
Our decision to offer these counseling services is not an indication of any conclusions being drawn by the continuing investigation or by any part of our organization. The services are offered out of compassion for those who may find them valuable. We will continue to reach out to community members in ways that reflect our values of mutual respect and caring.
27. Why are counseling services being offered to reporters of harm before the investigation is complete?
Several people are describing serious psychological challenges connected to the harm they are reporting. While the independent investigation examines the evidence around these allegations of harm, we are providing compassionate assistance to these reporters by giving financial support for their professional counseling needs. This is a best practice that reflects our commitment to seek the truth and create a supportive environment in which reporters feel safe to share their experiences.
ABOUT THE REPORT
28. When was the report from An Olive Branch released?
An Olive Branch’s report was released by the SSSC Board on August 13, 2020.
29. Where can I find a copy of the report?
The report from An Olive Branch has been published in full at https://epsweb.org/aob-report-into-allegations-of-misconduct/. Please be aware that the report is difficult to read, as it contains graphic descriptions of sexual misconduct and strong language that may trigger the reader.
30. Has SSSC or the CRT altered any part of the report?
No. In the report’s Section 3, Purpose and Scope of the Investigation, An Olive Branch states: “At the conclusion of the investigative process and preparation of this report, we are satisfied that throughout the investigation, the CRT has behaved in the way that was agreed at the outset; we have been allowed to investigate as we saw fit and have reached our own conclusions without interference, bias, or inappropriate influence by the CRT or the SSSC.” SSSC did prepare a cover letter issued with the report, which can be viewed with the entire report as published at https://epsweb.org/aob-report-into-allegations-of-misconduct/.
31. Did An Olive Branch reach a final conclusion about the allegations?
Yes. As is usual and customary in independent investigations, An Olive Branch used the standard of whether, based on relevant and sufficient evidence submitted, it is “more likely than not” that the alleged behavior occurred. Based on information received through follow-up with 299 individuals, both supporting and refuting the allegations, An Olive Branch concluded: “after weighing all of the relevant information available to us, we have sufficient evidence to conclude it is more likely than not that Yogi Bhajan engaged in several forms of sexual and/or ethical misconduct with 36 of his followers.”
32. What process did An Olive Branch use to reach its conclusion?
An Olive Branch provides an overview of its investigative process in its final report. Phases include intake, which involved soliciting input from individuals with potentially relevant information and recording information; interviews of reporters and supporters; collecting and analyzing statements; reviewing additional data (articles, letters, court documents, archival materials); and conducting a full analysis of all information collected.
An Olive Branch was contacted by 299 individuals, including those reporting harm and those refuting the allegations. An Olive Branch notes that 140 people spoke on Yogi Bhajan’s behalf. An Olive Branch conducted interviews and/or received statements from each of these supporters specifically to explore his defense and receive testimonials on his behalf. All were studied and made part of the record. Information about the motivations and factual consistency of the allegations was provided to and assessed by An Olive Branch through questioning, fact-finding and analysis. Once all information was collected and studied, An Olive Branch formed the conclusions outlined in the report.
33. Now that the report is public, will the reporters of harm be identified?
No. An Olive Branch has taken great pains to try to ensure the anonymity of all reporters of harm and other witnesses. Some reporters and witnesses already have revealed their identities, others may choose to do so. We encourage all to respect individuals who provided their accounts; sharing relevant information requires courage and can be traumatic and highly emotional.
THE PATH FORWARD
34. What will SSSC do to help heal any divisions or pain experienced in the communities?
In beginning our healing process, we recognize that we have a lot of work to do, and we do not yet have all the answers. The steps we are taking to meet the challenge are as follows, and we invite the active participation of all community members in this process:
We are embarking on a program of Compassionate Reconciliation based on the proven principles of restorative justice. We are currently in the process of selecting a professional consultant to work with our global community, including reporters of harm, to design and implement such a program.
We are examining the totality of our policies and activities of all of our constituent organizations, events and teaching environments to ensure they live up to our stated values of being open, welcoming, respectful and safe for all.
The Office of Ethics and Professional Standards (EPS) recently engaged an external consultant to examine its policies and procedures to make sure they comply with industry best practices as EPS works to maintain the ethics and integrity of the 3HO communities, Kundalini Yoga Teachers, KRI Teacher Trainers, and Sikh Dharma International Ministers. The assessment is ongoing, and we will implement any recommended changes.
We acknowledge and will continue to examine our past to understand what present changes need to be made. We will continuously assess the improvements we have made and make changes if necessary. Finally, we are committed to taking the necessary steps to ensure that our organizations provide safe and protective environments for all community members and respond appropriately and quickly if allegations of harm are reported.
We will also continue to reach out to our global community to provide spaces so that we can hear from the community and get feedback through the Listening Tour forums for discussion and healing, and create long term mechanisms to receive feedback. We are expanding our ability to hear more from the community.
35. What additional help will SSSC be offering to the reporters of harm?
We offer our compassion to the reporters of harm and thank them for their courage in coming forward. SSSC is working to determine additional forms of assistance that may be valued by the individuals who have reported harm. In addition to the counseling services currently available, we will be exploring various other means of reaching a just outcome through the Compassionate Reconciliation program. We expect to have more information to share about this process in the coming weeks.
36. What is SSSC doing to ensure the safety of those who participate in its programs?
Our organizations take any allegations of abuse or harm very seriously. We stand united against abuse of power, sexual abuse, any form of exploitation, and any use of sexuality as a vehicle for causing harm. Since 2014, the Office of Ethics & Professional Standards (EPS) has been addressing complaints and refining its approach to maintaining the ethical standards critical to the SSSC and its organizations. It will continue to evaluate and improve its process for overseeing ethical conduct, handling complaints and working to enable greater understanding and healing for affected individuals as well as the wider community. The SSSC has engaged an external compliance expert to aid in this evaluation, ensuring that all policies and procedures comply with accepted best practices. This process allows our organizations to better implement effective policies and procedures for preventing abuse and supporting and protecting reporters of harm. Our main priority is ensuring that any future reporter(s) of harm have a clear and safe path to share their story and have it promptly addressed.
37. What specific resources are available to community members now?
The SSSC is offering resources to help support community members impacted by the report and its conclusions, including:
Listening tours that provide safe spaces for personal processing, community dialogue and sharing. All community members are invited to participate, and registration and schedules are available at www.ssscorp.org/listening-tour.html.
A formal channel for making reports about concerns or unethical behavior through the Office of Ethics and Professional Standards, which can be reached at epsweb.org
Continued communication and transparency about our situation.