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Safeguarding Policy in

Open Heart

As dharma practitioners, Open Heart (OH) staff always aim to act in accordance with the common ethics of the natural state itself. However, we do acknowledge the relative human condition and recognize the need for written guidelines in regards to general conduct of staff and for the safeguarding of individuals.

This policy applies to all OH staff, including teachers and organizers and anyone working on behalf of OH. This document includes (1) a general code of conduct for staff members, (2) a brief description of abuse and (3) guidelines for reporting and processing complaints of abuse.

Purpose of this document

The purpose of this document is:

  1. to protect anyone involved in OH activites from different forms of abuse.

  2. to provide OH staff and members with the overarching principles that guide our mission.

Code of conduct

The main ethical prinicples of Open Heart are honesty, non-violence, kindness and generosity. Thus,

  • We emphasize openness and dialogue and encourage our members to share their viewpoints and experiences within the group. We do not adhere to strict vows of secrecy, the idea of certain topics as taboo etc. All questions can be asked freely.

  • We treat all humans as equal regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, racial heritage, religous belief or identity. All humans deserve respect.

  • We recognize our responsibility of behaving with kindness towards all sentient beings. We do not harm others.

  • We recognize that some people (children, young people and vulnerable adults) are more vulnerable to abuse than others and take measure to prevent that such abuse takes place.

  • We recognize our own limitations and will encourage people to seek appropriate help elsewhere if our teachings are not suitable for a specific individual (f.ex. in the case of severe physical or mental illness.)

  • We always challenge unacceptable behaviour and report all allegations/suspicions of abuse to the head teacher and the sangha leaders.

What is considered abuse?

What we mean by abuse is any kind of mistreatment that violates a person's human and civil rights. Abuse can vary from treating someone with disrespect in a way which significantly affects the person's quality of life, to causing actual physical suffering.

In any organization abuse is usually carried out by someone who is in a position of power, authority or trust over the victim. In OH this would translate to teachers, sangha leaders and group leaders etc., however, other people in the organization can also be in a position that might enable abusive behaviour.

Since abuse can take many forms it is important for both staff and members to familiarize themselves with the phenomena in order to be able to better detect abuse or more effectively respond to complaints.

Forms of abuse:

  • Physical abuse such as hitting, kicking, slapping, restraint, or otherwise causing bodily harm.

  • Sexual abuse such as rape, sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the adult has not or could not have consented, or to which they were pressurised into consenting.

  • Psychological or emotional abuse such as threats of harm, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, shaming, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, forced withdrawal from supportive networks.

  • Financial or material abuse such as theft, fraud or exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property, or inheritance, misuse of property, possessions or benefits.

  • Discriminatory abuse such as that based on race, sexuality or gender and other forms of harassment or slurs.



Reporting abuse



If you are experiencing abuse yourself, or if you suspect that someone in the sangha are being abused, this should immediately be reported to one or more of the sangha leaders and the head teacher:



Head Teacher:

Kim Katami, kimkatami@hotmail.com



Finland Sangha Leader:

Helena Ahlbäck, ohsanghaleader@gmail.com



Ireland Sangha Leader:

Jonathan O'Donovan, jodonova@gmail.com



United Kingdom Sangha leader:

Karl Eikrem, kheikrem@hotmail.com



If for some reason you don't wish to contact the head teacher, or sangha leader of your country, you can notify another sangha leader who will then be take your complaint.



The staff member receiving the complaint will then:



  • take you seriously

  • ask you questions to make sure they understand the full scope of the situation

  • write a written record of the complaint (if the complaint is delivered verbally)

  • inform you of what will happen next

  • if needed, take necessary measures to minimize risks for you until the complaint has been processed.



No information will be shared with other people without permission of the person who is being abused, except in cases where (1) others may be at risk of abuse, or (2) if the person is not able to make decisions for themselves because of mental disability.



If the abuse is also considered a crime by law, you should contact the police as well. If the police are involved, OH will work with them and with you in order to support the process in the best possible manner.



Concluding remarks



We hope this document contributes to the safety of our members, our staff and our affiliates. With the continous surfacing of horrific scandals in the buddhist community, we find it important to make a firm stance against such atrocities.



This article was written by Open Heart Teaching Staff and the head teacher in May 2018.