There have been a number of questions raised about the methodology of the Interkula’s last survey “Triratna: How are We Doing Now?” conducted in September 2018, and in particular around Question 6:
“Q6: Do you know anyone, either yourself or someone you know personally, who experienced sexual misconduct by Sangharakshita or another Order member, but who has not yet been invited to participate in the Restorative Process?”.
What can be concluded from question 6 of the survey?
First, we would like to remind readers of the aim and objectives of this survey. The aim was to ascertain where people in the Triratna Community or those associated with it currently stand in relation to allegations of past sexual misconduct. The three objectives of the survey were to establish:
1) If people felt allegations had been sufficiently addressed.
2) If not, what else could be done to address them.
3) To make recommendations to the Sangha based on findings from the survey.
Second, we would like to remind readers that due to data protection requirements, we did not have consent to use address lists to reach people who may have wanted to answer the survey. Therefore, we used the means we had available to us to access people via online forums, which limited the types of people and numbers we could reach. As a result, the survey was not intended to reach a statistically representative sample of all people who have ever been involved in Triratna; a characteristic that is noted in the report. The Observer have seized on the percentage that answered Q6 positively, without reference to the sample population. They have assumed our sample is representative of the entire current population of Triratna.
This survey was not set out to quantify past misconduct. If the research question had been ‘what proportion of people feel that they have experienced sexual misconduct in Triratna?’, we would have designed it differently. In that case, we would need to define our timeframe, define sexual misconduct, and define the entire Triratna population as well as having access to those people. This piece of work would be very costly and difficult to do, as it would require a) all centres to participate in identifying past and present attendees within the timeframe we were looking at, and b) using other mechanisms, such as adverts, phone calls, letters and emails to try and reach the entire Triratna population or a statistically representative sample so that those who felt they had experienced sexual misconduct could come forward. This would then give a better estimate of the proportion of people who report they have experienced such misconduct in Triratna.
If the research question had been ‘What assists or prevents people who feel they have experienced sexual misconduct in Triratna from coming forward?’, then we would want as many people as possible who felt they had experienced this to be reached, and would not be interested in reaching those who did not feel they had experienced such misconduct. In other words, the sample population would be people who feel they have experienced sexual misconduct in Triratna. Again, we would need to define our timeframe, define sexual misconduct, and would then want to do individual interviews with those people. The interviews would then be themed to identify similarities and differences, and recommendations made based on those interviews. Again, this would be a large piece of work.
In either piece, ensuring anonymity to maximise the chances of people coming forward and using independent researchers would be highly advisable. It would only be ethical to do such a large piece of work if the organization was committed to acting on the recommendations.
In this survey, we were limited by resources so did not have independent researchers, but tried to maximise the accuracy in participant reporting by making the survey anonymous, asking for only direct reports of sexual misconduct in the respondent or someone directly known to them, and ensuring only one response per internet provider address was allowed.
As a result of the limitations of our reach and resources, the survey report provides an indication of the range of opinions and experiences of people who answered the survey. This gives the community a useful starting point for more detailed work in identifying where problems may lie, and this was the intention of the survey. We are aware that people who respond to surveys have particular characteristics, as noted in the original report, and that there may be an over-representation of people who have strong opinions either way on this topic. However, through the qualitative data we gathered (for which numbers of people answering are irrelevant), there were two clear gaps, resulting in a number of people stating they had not reported misconduct. First, there was a knowledge gap in information sharing, where people reported not knowing how to report misconduct or accessing the restorative process. Second, there was a trust gap, where people who reported they experienced misconduct or knew someone who had did not have confidence in reporting the harm or in the restorative process because it is in-house. Our recommendations are intended to address these gaps.
A pdf of these FAQs can be downloaded here.