A 71-year-old Buddhist teacher was arrested for sexual assault of a minor by one in a position of trust, after allegations were made against him by a former student.
William Lloyd Karelis, a former teacher at the Shambhala Buddhism Center in Boulder, was taken into custody after accusations were made against him of multiple alleged assaults over an 18 month period, on a young girl he was mentoring through the center.
Apparently, Karelis met the child at age 8 when he was first appointed to her as a mentor. He mentored the girl for multiple years, and while the assault survivor alleges this was a period of time that Karelis groomed her for manipulation, according to a police affidavit, the abuse did not escalate until 2000 when she was 13 years old, and would start spending the night frequently at the Karelis home.
According to the affidavit, in 2003 the alleged victim’s mother became suspicious of Karelis after hearing there were accusations of abuse against the teacher made from other women in the organization. The further accusations have been confirmed by the Shambhala Center, and apparently stem from two complaints of inappropriate behavior made in 2002 and 2008, by women associated with the group. The resulting “Care and Conduct” complaint procedures initiated by those accusations, resulted in Karelis having his credentials suspended in 2004, and later, in 2008, permanently revoked.
Police believe that because of the extent of his time in the organization, and the influence he had within the group, there may have been additional victims spanning over a 30 year period. The police are asking that anyone with information contact Boulder Police Detective Ross Richart at 303-441-1833 or Detective Heather Frey at 303-441-3369.
Buddhist Project Sunshine and Previous Allegations
Other public allegations of sexual assault have been made against the Shambhala Buddhism Center, including accusations made against the top leaders of the organization over instances that allegedly took place at the Red Feather Lakes meditation retreat run by the group.
These allegations came to light in 2017 through a detailed report of first, and second-hand accounts of sexual misconduct. Named Buddhist Project Sunshine, the report was created by an ex-Shambhala member, Andrea Winn, as part of a grassroots effort to bring to light the abuse, and to initiate healing for ex-members who were forced to leave the organization. The report resulted in official apologies and the resignation of the organization’s highest leadership body, the Kalapa Council, and the groups leader, Mipham Rinpoche.
Organizations Have an Obligation to Protect Their Members
One of the first responsibilities of a church or spiritual organization, should be to protect their members from abuse by those who wield power within those organizations. People correctly expect these types of institutions to be sources of comfort and solace. When those organizations fail to protect their members, or worse, excuse or foster a culture of abuse and corruption, those organizations can and should, be held accountable.
Non-profit organizations and groups seeking to promote the common good, despite their altruistic intentions, are not immune to the same abuses of power that occur in other types of large organizations. And when they endanger and abuse their members, they should not be immune to the legal repercussions of that behavior either.
Contact our Colorado Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Attorneys
At the Gold Law Firm, our Colorado attorneys are passionate about protecting the rights of the survivors of sexual assault. We’ve been fighting to win justice for abuse victims for years, and work tirelessly on behalf of our clients, regardless of the size or power of the organization responsible for the abuse. Call us for a free consultation today at 303.694.4653, or fill out the form on this page, to learn what your legal rights and options are.