I wrote a response to the National Spiritual Assembly of the U.S. I had reservations posting this, but I figure I should allow those people spying to get all their information for the GOSSIP they are spreading. (gossiping is also against Baha’i law…. maybe Kathy meant that I was gossiping rather than backbiting.) Gossip is defined as: “Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” Perhaps that’s what she was trying to convey when she said I was relaying Dr. Ma’ani’s life instead of my own if I told anyone what he did to me. Again, the problem is accusations of crime are rarely, if ever, proven true before a court case is prosecuted. So, Baha’is would then be breaking Baha’i law by reporting any crime in which they knew the suspect? Or maybe that’s why she labeled it “backbiting” because a confession was offered. Either way, it disgusts me that the NSA sanctioned blaming a victim in any form. If Dr. Ma’ani had been able to rape me that day, would I have been blamed for premarital sex? At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Here’s my response to the NSA (anything in quotes is from the NSA’s letter):
I have received your response. I find the timing to be poor at best after having accusations thrown at me and being lectured on my behavior just last night by Kathy Jewett on the NSA’s behalf. In light of everything that has happened, I have some very specific responses to your letter (which, I suspect will be left ignored, unfortunately).“As you know, shortly thereafter, Dr. Maani expressed to the National Assembly deep remorse for his misdeeds and entreated it to restore his administrative privileges.”Actually, I do not know that. I know that the NSA said in a letter that they received a letter showing regret, but as I have not seen his letter, nor know anything of what was said, I do not know. What I can tell you is that less than two years ago, he was still treating me as he always did – invading my space, “making eyes” at me, etc. I have yet to know of anything Dr. Ma’ani has said, written or done that shows true remorse. Even his letters of confession never touched on the fact that what he did was wrong, only that he was sorry it hurt me… more like a jilted lover than a predator who had no business touching a child.Also, did not one member of the NSA find it odd that Dr. Ma’ani knew to write a letter at that point to beg forgiveness from the members of National? The original decision had already been handed down, but had not yet been executed. Does no one question how he knew how to time the letter?“Underlying the teachings of all the revealed religions of the world is the possibility of spiritual transformation and the correction of human conduct. Thus, a primary purpose of the Bahá’í Revelation is the reformation of character. When it is evident to the institutions of the Faith that a believer under sanctions has amended his behavior and expressed sincere regret, the way becomes open for the sanctions to be lifted.”Actually, I believe I sent you a quotation from ‘Abdu’l-Baha that stated that the primary purpose of punishment is to prevent others from repeating the behavior, not for “reformation of character.” I do not believe that the punishment, nor the silence over the punishment, will offer any prevention of sexual assault within the Bahá’í community. If anything, the punishment will show others that no real punishment is assigned to them and they may live their years in peace after sexually assaulting someone. Also, I never saw any evidence that he “amended” his behavior, he never even admitted that what he did was wrong, illegal or damaging – only that he was “sorry” that the incident upset me.“Be assured that our decision to restore part of his administrative privileges so soon after his rights were removed does not imply that the National Assembly considers his transgressions to be inconsequential. “No, but the decision to restore his privileges, though his privileges were actually never taken from him in the first place, does show that the victims, no matter how much pain they are in, can be ignored and invalidated by a simple request of a dying man. It shows that his life is more important than his victims’. It shows that it was more important to the NSA to offer him peace on his deathbed – a man who repeatedly sexually assaulted others.“Under different circumstances, the sanctions would have likely remained in place for an extended period not only to correct his behavior, but also to serve as a warning to others and an affirmation to those he wronged that such behavior will not be tolerated.”Does this mean that Dr. Ma’ani’s death overrules any need for preventing further sexual crimes and the need for his victims to be validated? You let him die with a stain-free image… an inaccurate image. By letting him remain seen by others as a near saint, you lied. You lied to fellow Bahá’ís, you lied to the world. And, from everything I’ve read in the Writings, lying is a far more despicable crime than the one I’ve been accused of – backbiting. And again, the original sanctions were never enacted. He never lost his privileges. The second decision from the NSA was received before anyone was able to meet with him to remove his privileges and revoke his Bahá’í membership card.“However, you may be interested to know that, prior to receiving your June 18 message, we had already intended to address you personally, as a victim of his behavior, to inform you of our decision.”That could have, and should have, been included to the letter to the [location removed] LSA – as it was very clear that I was part of the LSA and would have read the letters that were received.“But we pray that through Bahá’u’lláh’s assistance and through the support of your loved ones, you will be able to overcome the ill-feelings that remain in your heart, so that your soul may be freed to experience the joy of detachment in the path of the love of God.”According the the phone call I received last night from Kathy Jewett, I am not allowed to speak to my loved ones about what happened to me. I was told it was backbiting because I was relaying information about Dr. Ma’ani’s life, rather than my own. So, I highly doubt my loved ones can support me if they do not know. As for God, I believe, at this point, that He may be one of the few who actually cares about what happened to me – and the other victims. I assure you, I have lost no faith in God, only in the leaders of the Bahá’í Faith and humans, in general. As for detachment, I believe my detachment is greater than most. I do not fail to warn others of danger or hide atrocities so that I might look better in someone else’s eyes. I do not choose to support people who are known to be popular at the expense of those who have been gravely hurt. My detachment from this world is far greater, I expect, than most working at the Bahá’í National Center… unfortunately, I cannot be detached from my mind and body enough to avoid suffering the aftermath of my sexual assault. For that, I must await my death… which I anticipate with much delight.“We must consider that ultimately, Dr. Maani is responsible to God for his actions, and it is God that judges and determines the application of justice and mercy.”God does not work in ways that can inform people en masse that sexual crimes are unacceptable. Not directly and swiftly. That was the responsibility of the NSA. In fact, the NSA had the legal responsibility to report Dr. Ma’ani as a child sexual abuser – no matter what his health was (please refer to: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1460&ChapterID=32 for Illinois law regarding this issue). That was not done. To the contrary, it was well-hidden and covered up. I believe, however, that Dr. Ma’ani’s triple threat cancer was no accident. Perhaps God was trying to send a message and, yet again, was ignored by the humans who claim to work in His name.“Most regrettable is that Dr. Maani’s transgressions against you lead to your minimized involvement in Bahá’í community life for almost two decades. It is our fervent hope that you will now make every effort to redeem those lost years by plunging into the work of your local community, using your insights and capacities, gained through tested experience, to bolster the community and its institutions to be ever more purified and effective channels for the spirit of the Cause of Baha’u’llah.”My involvement was absolute zero. I had no involvement in the Bahá’í community. And, unfortunately, I have resigned from my LSA as I know it is not to the benefit of my fellow Bahá’ís if I do not feel I can trust the decisions made by the NSA. I have, effectively, given up on trying to help the Bahá’í community because all I have gotten in return is more anger, more frustration, more unreasonable demands, and more silencing. No thank you. I do not believe those are core values that Bahá’u’lláh taught.As for my lack of involvement in the Bahá’í community being the most regrettable part of this sexual assault… that is probably the most conceited, ignorant and heartless statement I’ve read in a long time. Really? Not showing up to the occasional Feast is worse than the permanent effects on me? Not attending Bahá’í parties or meetings is worse than being stuck in flashbacks where I can see and feel nothing except for Dr. Ma’ani and his hands and mouth all over me? Or perhaps my lack of involvement is worse than when I saw his car while driving and froze up – almost causing a car accident before my husband took the wheel. It is painfully obvious that the NSA has not done their research on sexual assault/abuse and it’s effects. There is nothing more regrettable than what he took from my mind, body and soul that day. Nothing.“The National Assembly will offer prayers on behalf of you and your family at the House of Worship that God Almighty will surround you with His loving care, protection, and tender mercy.”And finally, please do not pray for me or my family. God has surrounded me with loving care, protection and mercy… it’s His followers who have let me down. I feel victimized by the NSA all over again and do not care to have any member of the NSA pretend to care about me. Because, honestly, I do not believe that a single one of you will truly pray for me. Find someone else to waste the generic messages on. I, as a survivor, don’t need more lies and empty promises.
Since preventing sexual assault is obviously not a priority for them, I’m sure I’ll hear back in six months… if I hear back at all. The really sad thing is, they obviously do not understand how common sexual assault is. They obviously don’t understand how their lack of speed on this topic is just allowing more assaults to happen within the Baha’i community. The statistics show that too many have gone by while the NSA takes their time to “craft” a response.
RAINN reports that about 207,754 sexual assaults happen every year in the U.S. That’s one assault every two minutes in this country alone. I waited 53 days for a response from them… that’s 38,160 sexual assaults in just the time between my letter to them and their response. Let’s break that down though… that’s the entire population of the U.S., after all. As the NSA would only have jurisdiction over Baha’is in the U.S., it is unreasonable to imply they could have prevented all of the 38,000 assaults. The approximate population of the U.S. in July was 311,591,917. The number of Baha’is in the U.S. as of June of 2011 was 169,578. So, that’s about .05% of the population. That brings our number to approximately 21 sexual assaults. Statistically, about 24 Baha’is are sexually assaulted every two months. It’s highly doubtful that all 24 of those are assaulted by fellow Baha’is, which would mean the NSA would have no part in preventing those attacks. However, each of those 24 survivors are being ignored by their faith when the NSA hands down opinions like it’s “backbiting” to tell your loved ones about your assault, that it’s “not so bad” for adults who are assaulted, and that the moment at which they were assaulted belongs to the perpetrator rather than themselves. Not to mention how the worst part of their assault would be (if it applied) that they were not involved in their local Baha’i community.
I want to look at this even further, though. I first reported my sexual assault around 1997 or 1998 (can’t remember which for sure). Let’s assume it was 1998 for statistical purposes – give the stats the benefit of the doubt. Time passed since I first reported… 171 months, in fact. In that period of time, approximately 2052 Baha’is were sexually assaulted. Assuming that most of them have or had partners at some point in the last 14 years, that’s affecting at least 4000 people – directly… and we can’t even begin to guess the number of their children, siblings, parents, friends and other loved ones. Yet all the NSA can offer is advice on how to be silent about what happened to them or their loved ones… that the truth does not set you free, it just means you are breaking the laws of God. Even the NCAA does a better job of punishing the guilty!