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My Yoga Studio Invited a Sexual Predator to Conduct a Workshop

in Yogitorials

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The author of the following article has requested to remain anonymous. This is her story.

When I first heard that he was coming to my yoga studio to offer a workshop I rushed out to my car thinking to myself ‘please don’t let it be who I think it is. Please let me be confusing his name with somebody else.’ I went straight to the glove compartment of my car where I kept my iPhone while I’m in class and googled his name. Article after article confirmed my fear. My yoga studio invited a sexual predator to conduct a workshop.

In recent decades there’s been a dark cloud hanging over the yoga community as many high-profiled sexual abuse cases involving yoga teachers against students have been brought to the public eye. The thought that one of those alleged perpetrators was coming to my studio made me feel sick to my stomach. I could not move. I was frozen in fear. Yoga has always been where I’d gone to feel safe. My safe space was no longer safe.

I’ve practiced yoga for over two decades, but it wasn’t until I was severely beaten and later raped that I discovered the healing power of yoga.

Yoga helped me with the physical and emotional injuries of my rape. Yoga helped me grow as a person. I credit yoga for helping me evolve from victim to survivor to thriver.

My day job is working in an executive position for a rape crisis center. I had yoga teachers refer other students or their friends to me that were survivors and might need somebody to talk to. I felt that everybody was very welcoming and did all that they could to ensure that I felt safe and comfortable in class. They succeeded. Whenever I step foot into a yoga studio I feel at home. I love going to see my yoga family.

I enrolled in teacher training class. I received three job offers to teach yoga (still undecided if I am accepting any of them) and was invited to assist in developing a yoga program for a US government agency. I went to class daily, sometimes twice a day and maintained a home practice.

When friends asked me if I was attending this upcoming workshop I said I was not. My yoga friends and yoga teachers posted links to the alleged sexual predator’s workshop on their newsfeed and I politely kept on scrolling down trying my best to ignore it. I figured if I could ignore this that I would be okay.

I knew the amount of work it took to get a yogi master to come to my hometown, and I didn’t want to ruin it for others just because it triggered me.

I continued to attend class and with a forced smile dreaded hearing the studio’s updates about upcoming workshops and events that the instructors gave at the end of each class. I almost vomited when teachers commented about what a great man and yogi this person is and how fortunate we are that he is visiting our studio.

I drove home after class in tears. I was not doing okay. By ignoring the pain that this was causing me I was not being honest with myself. I was going against my moral and ethical beliefs. Simply put: I was not practicing yoga. I thought about his victims and how they might feel knowing that their perpetrator is glorified at my studio and, despite all the allegations, he is treated with the upmost respect.  If these survivors are anything like me they probably feel hurt. Perhaps they’re doubting and regretting coming forward.

According to RAINN roughly 60% of sexual abuse are never reported to police and 97% of rapists are never going to spend a day in jail.

We live in a society where perpetrators are rewarded and praised while victims are, at the least, not believed or, at the most, completely shunned out from their circle of friends, family or community or worse.

I first turned to my husband and my fellow-survivor friends. All gave the upmost support and understood my pain. I then talked to my yoga friends and while most agreed with me and couldn’t believe how insensitive it was of my studio to offer such a workshop, many others told me to ‘let it go.’ I lost one friend because they said that I was not practicing yoga because I “allowed it to bother me” and then proceeded to de-friend me on Facebook. A couple that did agree with me ended up choosing to attend the workshop because “he is so well known.” Others said to go take a class so I can let it all go and feel better as if saying the problem was with me for allowing it to bother me and not, you know, an alleged sexual predator coming to the studio and what that means for a victim of rape.

I am by no means an expert on yoga philosophy. I might not have practiced yoga for as long as others had at the studio. To me, my yoga practice among other things, is about not causing harm to myself and to all around me. I might not know personally the yoga master’s victims but I do know their pain. I know the pain of being assaulted. I know the pain of betrayal and of seeing your perpetrator being treated as a hero. I know the pain because I have lived through it, too. I do not want to contribute to their pain.

If I attended the workshop or turned a blind eye on the injustice and kept silent am I not causing harm to his victims?

For the victim, sexual abuse is life shattering and changes every single aspect of one’s life.  Victims of sexual violence are at an increased chance of developing depression, eating disorders and eventually  committing suicide. The trauma increases when a survivor is not validated or believed. When we attend classes with, workshops about or buy books written by alleged sexual predators we are showing, with our wallets, support for the crimes that have been committed. We can not validate survivors by admiring their perpetrators. We are causing harm.

We can’t just choose to support survivors aside from those raped by famous yogis or support survivors except when a famous rapist yogi is in town. It is never: “Well they committed one of the worst crimes known to man and that part is bad but we still will give them money and support and open our yoga studios to them because they developed a style of yoga or helped introduce yoga to the United States.” It simply does not work that way.

There is no shaded grey area when it comes to supporting survivors.

Showing support to survivors is done by not showing any support to sexual predators.  We support survivors by giving unconditional support to all survivors of sexual abuse. You either support survivors or you support those that commits these crimes. It’s as simple as that.

From my little corner here on this earth I am standing in solidarity with my fellow survivors. Every time I get on my mat I think about all victims of sexual abuse and the roughly 38 women, men and children that are going to be assaulted in the United States during the time span of a 75 minute yoga class.

I am doing what I can to not cause any more harm to a group of women that already been victimized at least twice; once by what this yogi allegedly did and again by a community that has, for so long, showed tremendous support to sexual predators.

As unpopular as speaking out might be I am doing it because standing with victims of violence is my yoga.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault seek help or contact the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network at RAINN.org or the National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1.800.656.HOPE.

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Earlier

33 comments… add one

  • Elizabeth

    It makes me sad that others told you that you were un-yogic or otherwise were less than compassionate. I’m glad you are speaking up (and I understand 100% why you chose to remain anonymous).

    On the one hand, I don’t think the yoga community is unique in its treatment of teachers accused/convicted/etc. of sexual misconduct; the universities have protected and sheltered professors who preyed on younger students, for example. On the other hand, I wish the yoga community was more enlightened in this area. It’s not my business if you date your students, but I don’t want to study with a teacher who is cheating on his wife (an open marriage or an agreement would be different in my eyes), or abusing his students by claiming they’ll get some healing or yogi mojo or bonus karma from having sex with him. I don’t go around conducting a background investigation on every potential teacher I meet, but there are a few I avoid taking class with because, frankly, I don’t want to hang out with them and I certainly don’t want them touching me.

    Everyone is entitled to study with whom they please, and avoid whom they want to avoid, for whatever their own reasons are. It makes me sad that your friends and community would not support your decision and position, or recognize them as valid.

  • Amy

    I want to give you a hug. I would stand beside you and not attend the workshop. I don’t understand some of the comments people made to you, I can’t grasp where they’re coming from. From one yogini to another, I stand with you, I support you and I believe in you. Peace be with you. Namaste.

  • Melissa

    I don’t know which yoga teacher is being referred to, since there have been so many scandals lately. From my perspective, my life did not end when I was raped. I don’t know what happened to the man that raped me, but I don’t think that his means of making a living should be taken away because he raped me. It sounds to me like the people that fun the author’s studio should have an honest and open conversation with their clients that this teacher has a serious past with being either accused or convicted of raping yoga students.

  • Baffled

    Rapists need to be in jail. Which prevents them from making a living.

  • Hugh Jass

    You think rapists deserve a life sentence for using a woman as a masturbation aid? If the woman is unharmed, the sentence will only be a few years. When they have paid their debt to society, they need to make a living too. You are obviously a woman because you are so bent on revenge and lack the capacity to see a bigger picture. Women frequently commit crimes against men equally as serious, and they never seem to appreciate how men “get over it” and just move on. Can you imagine if men were as gung-ho on prosecuting women? It would triple the inmate population. Ladies, chill out and count your blessings and stop being so angry all the time and the world will be a much nicer place.

  • Lisa Blank

    “I don’t know what happened to the man that raped me, but I don’t think that his means of making a living should be taken away because he raped me. ”

    His ass should be in jail.

    Rape is a violent crime. Do you also believe that murderers should not have their livelihood disturbed because they killed someone?
    How about pedophiles? Should child rapists be able to carry on and make a living teaching preschool?
    I wonder what we should do with con artists that scam the elderly out of their life savings? Should they have to return the money they stole? How will the con wrists make a living if that’s all they know how to do?
    I read about a prison guard who has sexually abused or raped over 3o women. He lost his job. Should the prison rehire him to control vulnerable women and possibly rape another 20 or 30 because he has the right to earn a living? Maybe all those women are like you and rape didn’t bother them?
    How about sharia law? Those 8 year old brides fuss A LOT about being sold to marry old men. Maybe you should contact these little girls and tell them to suck it up. Those 65 year old men have a right to rape kids and continue to make a living. You will not be able to discuss this new attitude towards protecting the livelihood of rapists with Rawan from Meedi in Hajjah province in northwestern Yemen of course, because she died on her wedding night from a ruptured uterus after her 40+ year old husband raped her to death. She was 8.
    Let’s just go ahead and make rape legal. It doesn’t bother anyone important, just a bunch of girls and women. And men can lose their livelihood….which is so important.

  • Heather

    Thank you for your perspective. I’m just wondering why you wouldn’t attach your name to your opinion? It seems to me if you’d like to stand up for survivors it seems incongruous to then perhaps unintentionally & covertly stay quiet by keeping your identity hidden?

    I’d like to offer gratitude for the work you do, and for your courage in healing yourself through yoga, rather than choosing detrimental coping mechanisms or allowing the trauma to control your life. I too am a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, and know first hand what a difficult journey to wellness it is, as well as how instrumental this practice can be for healing.

    With love and total understanding, I’m simply going to suggest that when others tell you to “let it go” or “not let it affect you” I don’t think they mean to be dismissive of your pain. I think they are accurately pointing out that becoming consumed in this topic is clearly creating distress and is therefore not conducive to your healing. Again, I don’t mean to dismiss your triggers, only to encourage you to continue practicing true yoga – you choose what to focus on and how to perceive it, you choose your emotions and thoughts. So if focusing on this issue is creating so much distress for you (which it appears to be), then perhaps ignoring it is the best option and/or finding some way to step outside of your personal hurt and anger and not project your experience onto this situation. I don’t mean to suggest to stay silent, but for your own mental health perhaps the pain is too fresh if you can’t speak to the issue without it causing you so much strain. I say this because there was a time when I would have felt the exact same way, but enough time has passed that I could easily speak up against this and regard the accused man with indifference rather than from an emotional place that was only causing personal emotional harm.

    It might be beneficial to speak to your studio owner & manager about your feelings. They may not realize the impact on you and likely (statistically) other students. Continue to speak up with your opinion, but cherish the right to do that by respecting that others may not share your opinion. If others choose to attend the workshop, allow them to do so without judgement. Do what is right for you and what you believe to be ethical, then FREE yourself of more emotional harm by letting go of any negative emotion or judgement about this man or the studio or students who choose to attend his class.

    I hope the love with which I share this has been understood, because at the end of the day I hope all survivors (like myself) can learn the power of true healing, total control over your own emotions, thoughts & actions so much so that any external factor cannot exert it’s force onto you and alter your internal landscape of wellness.

    Much love :)

  • Anonymous

    This response is incredibly patronizing and offensive.

  • VQ2

    NO. Absolutely obsess about it. Blog about it. Go on others’ blogs about it. Exorcise those demons, even if it takes a long time, even if it threatens to disrupt your life (try not to let it destroy your life) … plus, there is a chance it may make you physically sick. TAKE that chance!

    I directly know what it is like to be predated upon by yoga teachers. Except in my case, it was not sexual predation, but financial predation by a yoga teacher who should have known better.

    It’s almost burnt itself out by now.

    But … the only way out is through …

  • Give up your victim mentality.

  • Sparky

    Markd, ‘victim mentality’ is something that is in fact prevalent in this society because so many people CLAIM to be victims of some injustice towards them. I’m not one to play judge or jury- neither are you – but there is a CLEAR line between ACTUAL victims of assault and abuse and those who feign victimhood. Anyone who tells this woman to get over it or as you put it to ‘give up their victim mentality’ clearly does not understand that true victims would like nothing more than to do just that, but are often traumatized by the ABUSE they HAVE suffered. So I would ask that you give up your sanctimonious comments unless you have been a real victim and have been blessed with being able to get over it. If not, have some compassion.

  • john

    Might add that when well known advertising publications associated with yoga endorse and give awards to said alleged predators, and various others write glowing endorsements of their products, they are essentially exonerating them to the public. And they know exactly what they are doing.

  • 123vamp

    I am sickened, but not surprised, by the advice to suck it up. You are at pains to point out that there are allegations against this man, and I do not know the strength or credibility of those allegations, but I do know that precious few allegations are spurious.

    Triggering is real, and it is entirely right that it is right for your peace and healing to decline (without harassment) to participate in anything this guy does. It is not evidence that you are mean or prejudiced or wrong. If somebody beat you with a baseball bat, nobody would think twice that you don’t exactly feel peaceful around baseball bats, don’t want to discus the merits of baseball bats, and do not wish to attend a baseball bat workshop. It’s nothing against baseball bats and baseball bats do not need your enthusiastic participation to have their civil rights. Sheesh. Take care of yourself. You don’t owe this guy your support or attendance.

    If you feel there is a legitimate public concern about this person and feel you have the means (both internal and external) to further public good by informing others of the allegations and their merit, by all means do so. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I don’t know why anyone should spurn you for bringing it up, particularly to explain your own non-support. Other people can deal with their own opinions about whether the allegations are credible or egregious enough to cool their enthusiasm. That’s on them, not you. But if you know something important and they don’t, you don’t do anybody any favors by staying silent.

    Frankly, “well, it’s quite sure that he did something awful but… but… well, he’s very FAmous you see and… um…” has been a very fruitful bit of awkwardness to cause. People should feel quite awkward if that’s their reasoning.

  • Eliza

    Thanks for your sharing, and I completely understand your desire to stay anonymous. To Heather and Markd, the real issue here is the yoga teacher perpetrator. I imagine it is useful for the author to speak up – and her speaking up will undoubtedly help other sexual abuse/rape survivors. I would agree with the author that comments like “let it go” are dismissive, though it is likely that the people who said them didn’t mean to cause harm. Silence and premature “letting go” does not heal trauma. As a psychotherapist who works with a lot of trauma, it feels important to say that a healthy response to violations is to do precisely what the author is doing – feeling and expressing her authentic feelings to others. I commend the author for doing so in her personal life, work, and in writing this article.

  • It takes great courage not only to take a stand, but to write about it. People who have not experienced sexual abuse or don’t have a loved one who was victimized are ignorant to the damage done. By attending that workshop you would be victimizing yourself over again. By speaking out you will help at least a few understand. Our society needs a major eye opening, and we will do that one person, one incident, one stance of courage at a time.
    Thank you, Roberta

  • “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (& women!) to do nothing.”
    ― Edmund Burke

    The “friends” you lost proved to be unworthy of your friendship. Be strong, thank you for the work that you do, and thank you for sharing your story.

  • Jeff

    Thank you for sharing and speaking out. You are obviously a strong person. I am shocked by some of the comments on here “victim mentality”? LOL. I read this and think “thriver”. Thank you for your continued work.

  • Robin

    I noticed you didn’t publish his name. Why not? was it proven? You should…

  • D

    According to the rape shield law journalists can not publish names of victims. It’s against the law in the US

  • D

    It is the responsibility of yoga teachers and studio owners to provide an environment that is safe for all students. Safe from physical harm as well as safe from emotional harm. The moment that the studio booked this person to teach at the studio the studio owners has said that profit of bringing in a ‘celerity yogi’ is more important than the safety of their students. It does not take a rocket scientists to know that a man accused of sexual misconduct is going to be triggering to survivors of sexual abuse.
    If it’s one of the many high profile rape cases in our community than this man has multiple victims that came forward. God only knows how many did not come forwards.

    One in four women in America are going to be victimized. I personally think that there is a higher percentage of survivors within the yoga community than within the general public because of all the publicity and studies out there that link yoga to help with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stresd Disorder. Yoga can be beneficial for survivors and things like these only make the situation all that much worst.

    The studio owner and all involved in bringing this man to the studio should apologize to the victim and offer a public apology for victims that might be suffering in silence. That won’t happen though. In a society and sub society (the yoga community) we justify the acts of a rapist by dismissing the claims of the victims, say the victim is “crazy” or tell the victim to just get over it and the victim mentality or somehow blame the victim.

    This woman has every single right to be upset. Too bad it is anonymous cause I really wish I knew the name of this yoga studi so we can warn survivors that this studio is not supportive of rape victims.

    We hear all these studios doing work for trauma survivors but most are conpletely clueless on what could be triggers for those suffering from rape trauma. Those that claim to be knowledgable to PTSD usually do more harm than good. I can tell you horror stories of some “PTSD trauma-sensitive” yoga programs that are anything but money makers or ego booster for the owner.

    I hope she finds a yoga studio where she can practice in an environment that won’t cause her harm. Check out a rape counselors or organizations that work with survivors. They often offer yoga or can recommend a place that is truly sensitive for survivors.

  • Thank you having the courage to share your journey. Stand by your own convictions. It is yogic to forgive but it is not wise to condone by our actions that which is wrong and harms others.

  • John

    “When we attend classes with, workshops about or buy books written by alleged sexual predators we are showing, with our wallets, support for the crimes that have been committed”

    No, we might or might not show support for crimes committed if we pay out for products produced by convicted sexual predators, it’s a very complex area. When we pay out for products produced by alleged sexual predators we may well be assuming they are in fact innocent. Just as it is a sad fact that a number of sexual predators go unconvicted so it is a sad fact that some accused of sexual crimes are totally innocent.

    It seems to me that for society in general and yoga in particular to start punishing people for alleged misdeeds as well as proven ones (whether by depriving them of a way to earn a living or anything else) would not be a step forward.

  • John Doe

    “It seems to me that for society in general and yoga in particular to start punishing people for alleged misdeeds as well as proven ones (whether by depriving them of a way to earn a living or anything else) would not be a step forward.”

    Umm…society does punish crimes. You see, for some subsections of society, the prospect of punishment is the only deterrent to committing a crime. That is because, in their mind, nothing they do is a “crime”. It’s inconvenient, however, if they get caught and prosecuted and punished. While this may not educate them to the fact that what they did is “wrong”, it may serve as a deterrent against future acts (by them and others like them). This protects the larger segment of society who has a concept of right and wrong.
    Not sure if I got through to ya…

  • John

    “Not sure if I got through to ya”

    No, you didn’t, I’m afraid I don’t see how the fact society punishes those guilty of crimes means it should punish those alleged to be guilty of crimes too.

  • George Franklin

    I agree that it is important that our ethical positions not just be theoretical–that we apply them to our lives. If you know that someone has committed a grave crime, then you are certainly correct not to attend that person’s yoga workshop and to discourage others from doing so. However, there is a vagueness to this post that bothers me. The person in question is referred to as an “alleged sexual predator.” Since he is not named, I’m not sure exactly what that means. First, I don’t know whether the allegations were ever proven or whether there was any follow-up whatever. People make allegations all the time. Some are true, and some are not. This is why we have a legal system. If they were all true, we wouldn’t need courts. Second, the term “sexual predator” is often used loosely. It can used to mean anything from someone who had consensual sexual affairs with unequal power relationships (teacher-student, for example) to someone who has committed the statutorily defined crime of rape. In this case it matters whether the allegations were well founded and, if so, where the teacher’s actions fall in that spectrum we reference when someone is called a “sexual predator.” Other things matter too, such as what was the teacher’s response to the allegations. Checking with Google may not tell you the whole story. You’re absolutely right that being a famous yoga teacher should not carry with it any moral or legal perks. And, you’re right not to study yoga with someone you feel is a person of bad moral character–for whatever reason. All I suggest is that it is important to make an informed and thoughtful judgment, keeping in mind that allegations do not automatically equal facts.

  • D

    You are 3. 11x More Likely to Be Killed by Asteroid or Comet (1 in 250,000) than be falsely accused of rape. Most f these “celebrity yogis” have had multiple victims which makes it even that more unlikely that all of them are lying.
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/charlesclymer/5-things-more-likely-to-happen-to-you-than-being-f-fmeu?s=mobile

    I was always taught if I had a problem or concern that there are probably others with the same concern but too afraid to speak out. Reading the response on here from some and the response from her “friends” at the studio it looks like we have a way to go before the community is sensitive to the needs of those that been raped.

  • John

    So we should treat those accused of rape as 1/(3.11 * 250,000) innocent until proven guilty?

    BTW, that mildly amusing article rather spectacularly misses the point.

    Some choose to see allegations a yoga teacher is a “sexual predator” as proof they are a rapist and any one who attends their workshops encourages their crimes. Others choose to believe that allegations do not constitute proof and suspend judgement.

    “Reading the response on here from some … it looks like we have a way to go before the community is sensitive to the needs of those that been raped.”

    If by “sensitive to the needs” you mean willing to sit still and be accused of abetting rape because they choose to believe allegations are not the same as proof then you’re probably right.

  • JJ

    I’m a yogi and survivor of sexual abuse as well. I know what it feels like when others, including friends and family members, try to “downplay” your experience. It is a cowardly thing to do and they clearly don’t realize the additional pain it causes you. There is absolutely nothing yogic about that. Reading about your experience was a trigger for me, but I want you to know I stand by your side. Thank you for being so brave!! I wonder when the yoga industry will stop rewarding sexual predators instead of making excuses for their criminal acts. It is somewhat similar to the Catholic Church simply shuffling known pedophiles around from church to church. Personally, I wouldn’t support any studio that welcomed a known predator. I’d take my mat and my wallet elsewhere.

  • Jeremy

    Don’t know if it’ s this person, but this shit is pretty common in the yoga world. http://www.90monkeys.com/2013/09/yoga-sex-and-the-teacher-student-relationship/

  • VQ2

    Oh, MY! This guy doesn’t even make pretensions to be spiritual, from his actual blogs …

    Anything someone could possibly learn from him, well – maybe it would take longer and/or be more “physically” injurious to learn from yoga from someone other than him.

    But, take that chance!

    That’s America for Americans.

    Looking for the quickest fix and still trying for the safest route …

  • Mark

    Nah, Jeremy and VQ2. It ain’t Cameron. That’s just a diversion. Cameron is just discussing having relations with women he met in his profession as a yoga teacher. Never seen anything anywhere about him being a sexual predator. There’s a big difference between consenting adults having a sexual relationship and grooming select students for abuse. The person referenced in this article is not Cameron. Attempting to frame Cameron as the perpetrator in this article is a diversion and an example of falsely accusing someone of something. It’s pretty obvious who the author is referencing.

  • paul

    A zero-tolerance for he-who-shall-not-be-named must include a zero-tolerance for our well funded institutions of rape (prison and the military) and the people who run them or it is only a meaningless luxury.

  • Sandra

    How can any studio let a known rapist hold a workshop? I don´t get it.. Yoga is about feeling safe and being yourself on and off the mat – how the f… are you supposed to do that in an invironment that supports scumbags like rapists? Where is the line? Does he have to abuse someone in that studio as well? The owner? Thank you for speaking up and getting involved! I wish you all the best! Feel hugged and supported from Egypt!

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