More senior Anusara teachers are coming out of the spiraled woodwork to air their grievances. Suzie Hurley and Betsey Downing, the “grandmothers of Anusara” who have known John Friend for almost two decades and were both part of the first dozen teachers to be certified under Anusara in 1999, have taken it upon themselves to speak up because they “know too much to keep silent.”
We were expressly asked to repost their letter because we were told that it and the comments were being filtered elsewhere. We aren’t able to post the original letter (sorry) but we have included below our summary and highlights. We invite you to include your thoughtful responses.
In short, the problem Suzie and Betsey find in this whole thing is that John Friend has been downplaying the magnitude of the situation and continues on in the minimization matrix. They point out his light, even merry approach to admitting fault at the Miami conference and increasingly distant letters. They also seem to have a problem with his “lying and deceit, and his abuse of power” as well as lack of integrity and ethics.
They point out that the 2006 Teacher Training Manual states that sexual relations between students and teachers are to be avoided. By 2009 the manual, updated by John Friend, views teacher/student sex as permissible in a disciplined way, like no making special adjustments in class.
Some of the “insidery” stuff Suzie and Betsey present echoes what we heard in earlier letters from resigned teachers. This certainly dredges up the question of why many senior teachers hesitated so long to come forth, but we appreciate the courage it takes to come out and finally feel the freedom to speak your piece.
Here are some pieces, as it were, from Betsey and Suzie. On their reasons for coming forward:
We’ve come to realize that people could not know the full extent of the situation unless they know what we know. We have been sitting on some very uncomfortable truths for the past month. It is not an option for us to continue hiding these truths, since John appears to be doing his best to forget or deny them. It is not about John’s sex life. Our concern is about his lying and deceit, and his abuse of power in the seat of the teacher and as the authority figure of Anusara Yoga.
They were part of the original Interim Committee and attended the phone conference held 5pm EST February 9th, where JF admitted that the accusations were “mostly true” including sex therapy stuff which is just recently seeing more light.
John admitted to the group that he had been helping someone with a sexual trauma she had experienced earlier in life. As a way of justifying that it was sex therapy and not an actual affair, he said, “But I never kissed her,” and that she thought it was healing for her. One person asked what her husband thought of the sex therapy and John admitted that the husband said it was “completely out of bounds.”
Regarding Miami and John Friend’s appearance (despite the Committee’s advice not to attend), Betsey was present for the first 3 days and took notes. Her excerpts capture the mood of the setting:
He said, “Okay, I smoked pot.” Everyone laughed. He also explained that freezing the pension fund was an administrative error and had been corrected.
He also told us that he was involved in a Wiccan group, and that they harnessed energy to send out for healing others. He said that sometimes they took off all their clothes to build the energy, but that there was no sexual contact in the Wiccan group sessions.
After John shared his transgressions, one participant asked, “Is there any more? Is there anything else?” John said, “No. What else could there be?” More laughter. He did not mention anything about the sex therapy issue in response to that question.
At the end of his sharing in that session, John summed up the situation like this:
“Okay, here’s the worst thing I did: I slept with a married woman. Here’s the second worst thing I did: I lied to [a woman we'll call CA].”
That was the beginning of John’s reframing and redefinition of events to minimize the seriousness of the allegations. It was done in a light-hearted manner that elicited laughter from his audience.
His stance on his “sex therapist” status:
“I am absolutely not a sex therapist, nor have I considered myself to be, which has been purported.”
And a personal interaction and confrontation with JF on the very statement above:
During a portion of the asana class while the group was working in partners, Betsey went up to John and said, “The problem the Interim Committee is going to have with your letter is that you did not tell the truth about the sex therapy.”
John replied: “But Betsey, I said in the letter that I am not a sex therapist and I have never said I was a sex therapist.”
Betsey said to John: “Then you are just being technical with your use of words. You never said you were a sex therapist but in the letter you are not revealing what you told us on the conference call—that you did sex therapy with a student.”
John said: “Betsey, I cannot say that. The media would go wild with that information. There might be lawsuits.”
Betsey replied: “Then don’t tell us that you are telling the whole truth and being transparent—because you’re not being totally truthful here.”
We feel he is using the proposed Ethics Committee investigation to buy time to continue manipulating the kula [community] with his incomplete version of events. Meanwhile, it seems to us that with each additional letter John has written to the community, he has gotten further away from taking responsibility for his abuse of power in the seat of the teacher by lying about having sexual relations with students and employees.
Betsey and Suzie feel that the Ethics Committee investigation should shift beyond any discrepancies between JF’s public and private revelations and become a safe haven where any and all teachers and/or students can feel free to come forward and share their experiences. Perhaps for those shy of taking to the web to air their grievances?
Read the original post at elephantjournal.com