We are all aware that sexual abuse, assault and harassment happens within the secular field of yoga. But what happens when that also happens within the context of Christian yoga community? We expect it not to happen here. But it does. Just as the church is not immune, neither are we.
Here at the Christian Yoga Association, one of the missions of our fledgling organization is to also address the difficult conversations of abuse in faith based communities. We strive to bring awareness, prevention as well as healing to all involved.
A suit was filed against an organization within the Christian yoga community, while many other allegations have also come forth regarding the same issues of sexual and spiritual abuse during and after teacher trainings.
Below is a blog that provides information so you can follow along as well. It is a blog and therefore an opinion piece. We realize and acknowledge that the voice of the victim often is unheard in these cases as they either don’t speak up or when they do, they are shamed and silenced. We want to hear their voices and give platform for you to hear their voice as well.
When #MeToo Happens in Ministry
She wears a bright blond Mohawk with fingernails painted in bright colors. Her laugh originates from somewhere deep in her chest with a big burst of joy. She has a certain spunk about her, a moxie that seems to wrap itself around her like a splashy sarong.
But on this day she is almost quiet…her voice somber and reserved.
The reporter sits next to her with legal counsel close by. He asks her questions and she answers with her story.
It’s a narrative branded on our consciousness with the hashtag of #metoo. The movement developed by women (also including men) as a way to bring awareness to sexual harassment and assault.
But what happens when this occurs within the confines of ministry? And what happens when this occurs at the hands of another woman?
In the case of my friend, she followed the chain of command and communicated what had been done to her in the setting of a Christ-centered yoga class, in a very vulnerable moment. The way she was touched and spoken to…
A staff member responded by saying, “If this were a man, we would know exactly what to do.” They promised to ‘pray about it’ and get back with her.
In the shorts weeks that followed, she attended two phone calls in attempts at reconciliation with her abuser. Because this is what we do in Christian community. But the other woman said it was merely “a joke” along with “I’m sorry you got offended.” The end. No ownership or sincere apology.
And then my friend was demoted-her already meager pay cut in half. When she attempted to discuss her plight with the ministry’s leadership, the founder responded by saying, “I don’t give a shit about your offense or anyone else’s.”
Interesting statement from the founder of an international ministry, don’t you think?
When people within the ministry started getting wind of what happened, they denied it…said it didn’t happen. Then they tried to cover it up, tried to gloss it over by dumbing it down, making it appear as if my friend overreacted. “It was just a comment,” they said. And then a resort to false rhetoric-a speech given to the rest of the community to assure all were taken care of and settled. Which they weren’t. I know this because I’ve walked alongside my friend throughout this journey. I share all of this with her permission.
You can read the full story here: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/courts/2018/09/04/dallas-woman-claims-forced-faith-based-holy-yoga-reporting-sexual-harassment-class
I teared up when she called to tell me The Dallas Morning News contacted her attorney for an interview. “Maybe,” I said…”maybe this is the beginning of a little bit of justice. For all of us.”
Though we live five miles apart, we met in Virginia almost six years ago at an instructor retreat for faith-based yoga. She was already in leadership and I would follow a year later. We worked closely together on several events, getting to know each other along the way. But it was our shared experience with abuse at the hands of this so-called ministry which bonded us closer than ever.
There are many of us it turns out. “A pile of bodies,” another friend commented.
After my own experience-and after I resigned-I reached out to former leaders. “Why did you really leave?” I asked them. (Because that was always covered up too.) And we all had something in common…
It appears to be a culture of misconduct-a longstanding ability to injure others by tearing them down emotionally and spiritually. And because my friend was brave enough to tell her story, we can add “sexual harassment” to that list.
Some were more vocal about their ordeals. For others, it is still too painful. After I published my first essay on the subject, a former leader contacted me telling me she “couldn’t stop shaking and crying” after she read it. I know one woman in particular who will never darken the doors of a church again because of her mistrust in organized Christian community. I struggle with that as well.
This is a big deal friend. Much bigger than it’s made out to be. One current leader’s response to our hurt was, “moving on.”
Yes…it’s very easy for them to ‘move on,’ as they have a plethora of people waiting for the chance to be included. Meanwhile, those of us left in the wake of their destruction are still trying to put our shattered pieces back together.
And please understand, we are not out for revenge. We aren’t telling the world they wear crooked crowns simply for the sake of scandal. No dear reader…there is a difference between revenge and justice.
Because part of justice is correction and the hope that no one else will have to go through what we did.
If there was some semblance of remorse or steps taken to help our abusers, this might be a different tale. But all of them-all of them-still hold staff and/or leadership positions. And it’s not right.
That’s the point of all of this–the blog posts, the interviews, the lawsuit, the hours-long conversations with people wondering what happened to us. It’s all an effort to bring darkness to light. To illuminate the shadows and brighten up the murk of devastation.
In doing so, our hope is for that cycle to be broken…interrupted by a group of women who won’t stay silent.
September 4, 2018
See also part of Amanda’s own story at Identity Theft.
If you’d like to share your anonymous story, your identity is protected at all costs, please email admin@ChristianYogaAssociation.
Please understand that this is an ongoing case and no decision has been handed down by a court of law.
As with any abuse cases and/or articles, this is a time that we lift up everyone involved to the Lord. That abusers not only take responsibility for their actions, but that they would come to repentance. We pray for each victim that they could find forgiveness for their abusers and to receive the freedom and healing through the blood of Jesus. We are here for you as a community to help, serve, support, pray, reveal and help protect others. We thank God for you and keep you in our prayers. We are grateful for your courage in bringing dark things to light, guiding the way for others to do the same.
Again, please be aware that this case has only recently been filed. A trial and subsequent ruling will take place in time. In the meantime please be in prayer about this situation, for all involved, for the truth to come to the surface, for deep compassion and forgiveness to be demonstrated wherever possible, and for the Christian yoga community to stand as witnesses to the redeeming and restoring power of Jesus Christ.