It’s been brought to my attention several times that people are still asking: If I was being sexually abused, why didn’t I leave? Ignoring those who are trying to absolve Pattabhi Jois of his crimes by pointing out my personality defects, I will offer an explanation to those who are truly seeking to understand.
The boiling frog fable goes as follows: If you put a frog into boiling water it will immediately jump out. But, if you put it into room temperature water and slowly raise the temperature, the frog won’t notice and will be boiled alive.
The abuse, in my case, increased incrementally. Other students of P Jois, my entire social network at the time, and I shared a cognitive dissonance that dismissed and rationalized the abuse as something else. I dissociated during the assaults, which dis-integrates the psyche and impairs the capacity of discernment. And like most people I did not want the stigma of having been sexually abused. I was in denial.
Many people spend years, even when they can leave, in abusive relationships, situations and dreadful jobs that started out well. Often they don’t realize how bad things were until after they get out. It took me years to clearly understand what happened to me.
Actually, the answer to the question ‘Why didn’t I leave?’ is: I did leave.
The question that seems to follow is: Why didn’t I speak up sooner?
Monica Gauci wrote an insightful and beautiful blog entitled, Why Did She Let It Happen?
To which I made the following comment:
There is an inherent problem with the question, ‘Why did she let it happen?’ It assumes that the victim has control in an abuse situation. However with abuse, whether an isolated incident or repeated, the power of the victim to stop it and/or discern that it’s abuse is controlled and manipulated physically, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually by the abuser.
That people can ask this question is a testament to why victims don’t speak up sooner: We don’t want to be shamed and gaslighted with that type of question.
Why didn’t I speak up sooner? I’d already been abused and dehumanized. I knew the scorn and ridicule I’d receive if I spoke up.
There are many other testimonies besides mine, which you can find here: https://karenrainashtangayogaandmetoo.wordpress.com/…/my-f…/
There are accounts of sexual assault committed by Pattabhi Jois on tours, which include digital rapes of unfamiliar students occurring in the US from the late 1980’s into the 2000’s.
Practitioners of P Jois’ Ashtanga yoga, especially the more devoted, besides feeling defensive, may feel confused, deceived or betrayed, given the information that P Jois was a serial sex offender. I think that’s a good thing. It means you have a conscience. You might consider seeking outside help. That’s not meant as an insult. Obviously, I’ve sought outside help.
The importance of outside help can’t be overemphasized, because, while the Jois system of Ashtanga yoga is a powerful practice with beneficial applications, the limitations of those benefits ought to be acknowledged.
When I was a child, I had a ‘lazy’ right eye. I wore a therapeutic patch over my left eye and the condition of my right eye was fully corrected. I now have better far vision in my right eye than my left. It would have been detrimental for me to continue the therapy of covering my left eye. It would be ridiculous for me to apply that therapy to any problem I ever have with my eyes.
Similarly, the slogan, ‘Do your practice and all is coming,’ is an imperative to NOT continually or even periodically re-evaluate and discern the benefits and costs of the practice during the ever changing conditions of life. When an issue is resolved, is ‘the practice’ still necessary? Is it the most effective choice to meet new circumstances or issues that arise?
For decades the practice has done nothing to remediate or mitigate abuses of power and many people were/are unwittingly complicit. There is no shame admitting you were speaking or acting from a less informed place. That admission will be meaningless however if you don’t set on a journey to become more informed.
A great place to start would be by exploring writings, counseling and trainings with experts on institutional, spiritual and sexual abuse, high demand groups, trauma awareness, trauma informed yoga and consent culture.
These are all huge topics and I think it’s important to explore a variety of perspectives on each. The following people have writings or interviews that I’ve appreciated, dealing with at least one of the topics: Alexandra Stein, Tiffany Rose, Rene Denfeld, Theodora Wildcroft, Leslie Hays, Anneke Lucas, Eunice Laurel, Hollie Sue Mann, Janja Lalich, Tanner Gilliland.
Here is a resource that might be useful for people who feel they were betrayed or spiritually abused. It includes a link to international counsellng resources:
By the way, in truth, a frog will jump out before the water boils.