The Vermont Supreme Court upheld a 2019 law that removed the statute of limitations, allowing survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit against those responsible. The ruling was issued in June, but details were only released this month, reporting a lawsuit against Shambhala USA and John Weber, a former employee of Shambhala's Karme Choling meditation center in Barnet, Vermont .
The alleged abuse took place in 1983, when the complainant was 15 years old. The complainant's name was not published in the media because he was a minor at the time.
In response to the verdict, the plaintiff said he was “really happy, really happy.” . . not just for me, but it's part of what I wanted to do when I took action: help others. (VT excavator)
The lawsuit, originally filed in May 2020, alleges that when Weber was artistic director at Karme Choling, he sexually assaulted the 15-year-old boy.
According to the plaintiff's attorneys, Shambhala USA "and its subsequent entities were founded and created to honor the tenets of Buddhism, but instead it and individuals in leadership positions attracted children and young adults under a religious pretext so that they can be victims. » (VT excavator)
“Their victims, including the complainant, faced further rounds of abuse in the form of humiliation, as the institutions that were supposed to protect them then ostracized and rejected them if they or their parents spoke out or took action. measures to report incidents. », Add the lawyers. (VT excavator)
The five members of the tribunal unanimously decided to allow the plaintiff to move forward with his scheduled trial. The plaintiff also filed a motion to unseal the case, which will be heard before October in Caledonia County Superior Criminal Court in St. Johnsbury.
Weber's lawyer, David Sleigh, said his client disputes the allegations against him: "We categorically deny the allegations made by the plaintiff and we believe that we will be able to demonstrate that they are not true and we We look forward to vindicating Mr. Weber in court. (VT excavator)
Shambhala USA's attorney, Evan O'Brien, also disputed the allegations against the organization, saying in a statement: “Shambhala respects the Vermont Supreme Court's decision. He denies (the plaintiff’s) allegations of wrongdoing and looks forward to defending his case in court.” (VT excavator)
According to the lawsuit, the Shambhala community has long participated in and encouraged "widespread sexual activity between multiple partners," and "sex with the guru" has become a step "towards enlightenment." (VT excavator)
The community followed the charismatic Tibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa (1939-1987), known for his "crazy wisdom" teachings and eccentric lifestyle. Numerous accusations against Trungpa and his followers have been made over the years, the most recent being the major revelations compiled by former community member Andrea Winn in her “Project Sunshine.”*
The plaintiff, like some of the others profiled in Project Sunshine, grew up in the Shambhala community, which she did not leave until 1987, some time after the alleged sexual assault. According to the lawsuit, around 2003, Shambhala leaders discouraged the plaintiff from taking his case to the police.
“Instead, Shambhala offered (the man) the opportunity to have a mediation meeting with his attacker, Weber,” the lawsuit states. “This is another example of Shambhala knowingly protecting its own interests and those of the perpetrators above those of the victims, including when they were just children. » (VT excavator)
Before the 2019 law change, Vermonters only had six years after realizing that a case of childhood sexual abuse caused harm to file a civil suit. The 2019 law removed the deadline and also clarified that survivors could sue institutions that permitted or perpetrated child sexual abuse.
According to Thomas Nuovo, an attorney for the plaintiff, the decision could have ramifications beyond Vermont. “I think the decision is not only important for Vermont, but it's also important outside of Vermont because it confirms what other states are doing,” he said, adding that other states had adopted similar legislation. (VT excavator)
* Healing a heart and a community: Andrea Winn and Project Sunshine (BDG)