By CLAIRE AIRD
A woman has told an inquiry that she was sexually assaulted with a double-barrelled shotgun at a New South Wales Central Coast yoga ashram, and was not sure the man who did it would not pull the trigger.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating allegations of sexual and physical abuse made against the former spiritual leader and director of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram in New South Wales, Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, in the 1970s and 80s.
The 57-year-old woman known as Shishy cared for children who were separated from their parents at the ashram where family relationships were broken down.
Shishy met Akhandananda when she was 16 and he was aged about 22. She was initiated at the age of 19 to a full swami and went to live at the Central Coast ashram, sleeping in the same quarters as Akhandananda.
The commission has heard that Akhandananda’s behaviour towards her became increasingly threatening as the years passed, and he began cutting at her vagina with nail scissors and threatening her with a pocket knife.
He also used the pocket knife to cut out her moles, at times leaving deep wounds.
“He wouldn’t allow me to get medical attention so I sewed those two [cuts] up with fishing wire,” she said.
Shishy said she was “terrified” when Akhandananda sexually assaulted her with a double-barrelled shotgun, in the lead up to her fleeing the ashram in 1984.
“I felt like if I moved or did anything other than receive it that I wasn’t 100 per cent sure that he wouldn’t fully pull the trigger,” she said.
Shishy ‘didn’t procure girls for sex but was present for assaults’
Shishy has told the inquiry that she did not procure girls for sex at the yoga ashram but was present when two young girls were sexually assaulted.
Alleged victims have given evidence that she took them to Akhandananda for sex, summoning them at all hours of the night.
“Honestly, at the time I really didn’t consider intervening because it was exactly what had happened to me,” she said.
“I believed the party line that it was all for our enlightenment and our highest good. I wouldn’t have interceded on that.”
Witnesses have said she was a mother figure to them and seen as a kind of goddess.
But Shishy told the commission she was more like a servant and subjected to humiliation and degrading sexual acts, with both Akhandananda and Swami Satyananda Saraswati – the leader of the movement.
Witness forced to drink urine as a form of contraception
Shishy was forced to drink both of their urine as a form of contraception.
“I was required to drink the urine straight from their penises in order to be immune from falling pregnant to either of them,” she said.
She was also made to have two abortions.
“Akhandananda gave me a mixture of different herbs and things. He insisted that I sit in a really hot bath with turmeric in it. I drunk the potion and eventually started to bleed,” she said.
Shishy said after leaving the ashram she travelled to India the next year to disclose the abuse to Swami Satyananda.
She said Swami Satyananda refused to intervene and told her whatever happened was for spiritual enlightenment.
Swami Shishy calls for compassion over her role
At Monday’s hearing, she called for “compassion” for her role in the ashram.
“Perhaps a little understanding for the young girl and the young woman that I was then and maybe some mercy too,” she said.
Shishy has also called for the Australian chapter to be extricated from India.
“I would like to see the Australian institution completely separate and that mechanisms are put in place so that this can never happen again, and certainly so that nobody could ever be put in the situation that I was and that be OK,” she said.
When Shishy returned from India she cooperated with police and gave evidence against Akhandananda in court proceedings.
Akhandananda was charged in 1987 with more than 35 sex offences against four teenage girls.
Before he went to trial in 1980, there were changes to NSW laws and the charges were reduced to the much lesser offences of acts of indecency.
Akhandananda was jailed in 1989 but his conviction was overturned when his lawyers argued the indecency charges were only laid to avoid the statute of limitations.
He died six years later.
The hearing continues.
This post originally appeared on ABC News and has been republished with permission.