This report on Bikram’s rape accusations, that aired on last night’s ABC’s Nightline News, is everything from incredibly disturbing to deeply enraging to sadly depressing. Over the past year, we’ve read and discussed plenty about these accusations, the five women who accused Bikram Choudhury of sexual assault in civil lawsuits, four of them alleging rape, we’ve read court documents and claims, we’ve collectively shuddered at the thought of an undoubtedly powerful and notoriously outrageous man taking advantage of his students. However, seeing the women come forward to speak about the claims and share their personal stories is something we really couldn’t prepare for.
Sarah Baughn was the first to speak out publicly when she sued Bikram last year for sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination. Prior to that, she says she initially reported an incident to a Bikram staff member who then told her, “He may not be avery good man, but he’s a very good teacher.” A line that keeps repeating itself like a broken record when it comes to Bikram Choudhury’s questionable antics and ego-fueled behavior over many years. “Oh, that’s just Bikram being Bikram.”
Baughn goes on to tearfully describe how Mr. Choudhury tried to coerce her into having sex and then threaten that if she didn’t go along with it she would never win an Asana championship.
For the first time we hear from Larissa Anderson, one of the women accusing Bikram of rape. She details her experience of being forced into sex in Choudhury’s home while his wife Rajashree and his two children were sleeping upstairs.
A third woman, represented as “Jane Doe” who worked within the inner circle, claims that Bikram raped her three times. She viewed him as a “Godly” figure, she said.
I was in denial, praying that it would not be.
And he said, ‘you know how many people apply for the scholarship every training?’
‘And of all the people, you’re here. Because I believe in to you.’ No one believed in me before.
I looked at him as a godly figure. Like mother Teresa, you know? I said please don’t.
The question that keeps coming up is why didn’t they go to the police sooner and report what had happened? And the same answer keeps being repeated: no one would listen, no one would believe me. “Everybody was so hypnotized by him,” ‘Jane Doe’ said.
Right now it’s a case against he said, she said, but the she’s are in the majority. Since Sarah Baughn filed her suit, 4 other women have come forward with lawsuits of their own, four of them alleging rape. Bikram’s lawyers are known to be a fierce lot and will likely fight these accusations with everything they’ve got.
“The hardest problem in my life is staying away from women,” a typically confident and self-assured Bikram told Nightline’s David News in 2012. Rumors had already been flying about inappropriate behavior, but Bikram denied any wrongdoing involving his students, adding that as a yogi you can’t be involved with “the women.”
“It’s wrong,” says Baughn. “No one is entitled to anyone’s body. Not ever. And nobody said anything. They just sat there and let him do it.”
Watching these women tell their stories makes us feel sad, not just for them, but for all who have come forward and for those who never will, for the students and teachers of Bikram who have invested so much money, time and energy and for the reputation of yoga in popular culture that only gets scarred from terrible situations like this, which we must recognize do happen not only in yoga, but in every other industry and facet of our society.
Watch the ‘Nightline’ clips below — Trigger Warning: detailed recounts of rape.
You can watch the full segment from the Nightline episode here.
If you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault report it to the police immediately or contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE.
- Former Bikram Legal Advisor Files Extremely Disturbing Lawsuit Over Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Assault
- Bikram Choudhury Accused of Rape in Two New Lawsuits
- Bikram’s Rape Accusations Are Too Big To Bury
- Bikram’s Survival Depends on You
- Bikram on ABC Nightline: Like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Yoga, Lawsuits, ‘Bitches’ and ‘Whores’