Thank you Yitz for this caring and reflective message. Thank you for sharing what you've experienced and witnessed with friends. Creating healthier boundaries, good therapy, and connecting with others regarding their experiences of sexual harassment and molestation at the MA - and subsequent removal and ostracization when they complained has helped me to remain clear in the face of gaslighting and denial from Alex and other persons who are a part of the MA. I've done what I can to raise a red flag for others and to expose what to me is a systemic issue regarding the abuses of power, lack of experience/competence, and organizational/structural factors that contribute to harm. To be clear I think the majority of abuse happening at the MA is spiritual, psychological and emotional rather then sexual (though I am not the first and will likely not be the last if real change doesn occur) and exists within a cultic dynamic. I think many current and former members have been embedded in a framework that creates an alternate sense of reality, brainwashing, vulnerability, emeshment, dissolving of personal boundaries and agency, assuming of a cult identity, delusional/lying to themselves, guru worship, cognitive dissonance, dysregulation of nervous systems, extreme fear and a sense of the rest of the world being bad, and a belief that they are doing and accomplishing something when in fact they offer no real contribution to the world. They meditate a lot and the environment produces shitty leadership. There do have profound mystic experiences, they do form close bounds with other community/cult members, and some people value their experiences there but from where I'm sitting I haven't seen those people demonstrate the capacity, skill, attunement, wisdom, responsibility or compassion that they believe themselves to be striving for. It's a sad situation. I think people waste a lot of time there and even if they themselves don't get severely traumatized there they come out with a distorted sense of leadership and reality that makes it hard to interface with the rest of the world or genuinely have a positive impact.
The reality is I would not have chosen to share my personal experience of sexual assault if it did not exist within the context of a systemic pattern of abuse affecting many persons in that environment. In many ways, the responses of Alex and the organization are to be expected and follow the typical patterns of many abusers. It is unlikely that there will be an admission of responsibility both because of the legal and social consequences of admitting responsibility and because of the cultic dynamics present. The lack of accountability, victim-blaming, obvious conflicts of interest, and absence of compassion or truth-seeking in the responses of the organization, Alex, and some other current members further demonstrates the patterns to which I am attempting to alert others too. They are painful to read and it is painful to see my ex-partner's denial, confusion, and continued entanglement with a "spiritual teacher" I believe is very unsafe both for himself and others. I will not be updating my sense of reality or confidence against the perceptions and interpretations of those I believe are a bit out of touch with reality or in some combination of denial/delusion/dishonesty with themselves and others. I know what I experienced with Alex and the MA- even if it is a bit unclear to me at times which actions were motivated by clear intent vs. dysregulation, unskillfulness, negligence, and incompetence. I believe that the difficult responses and attempts to reframe events or reverse blame in those responses make it easier for some people (especially those familiar with patterns of abuse) to see what I am attempting to illuminate. My hope is that others will be empowered to make healthier choices for themselves about their involvement and/or if they choose to engage in that environment they will be more aware when harm is happening in that context. Already a number of people have contacted me about their own past experiences, their consideration of becoming involved, and/or their decision not to become involved, or their recognition of how unhealthy their involvement with the organization was. At this point in time, I feel that while I had hoped for more genuine and productive reflection from Alex and the organization - my open letter has accomplished its purpose of sharing my experience and feedback with the organization and broader community and alerting others to the concerns I have about how the organization is operating.
Sending love and support back your way, to those friends, and to anyone else who found themselves in like circumstances. May you be well, and thank you for taking the time to read and respond.
Thanks for clarifying!It's true that many women experience unwelcome advances - and you are right that it's so prolific that many security bots could be kept busy. That's part of why I think comprehensive sex education including how to responsibly navigate sexual consent, developing healthy realtionship and communication skills, and understanding ones personal power/responsibility for ones impact might be one of the best solutions for reducing the systemic nature of sexual violence.
First of all, I want to express appreciation for your acknowledgment of how heartbreaking this situation has been and the suffering involved. This comment is a response to both of your comments.
As you've highlighted in your comments are reflective of your views - and not of my own. In some ways, it feels like you are putting a lot on me about what to do and what my views of sexual assault and punishment do or do not mean. I don't think that's intended. I sense that your goal here is to be reflective and helpful but it's worth noting that my post was not a request for advice. There is also probably a way to address the points you are making that expresses your thoughts without making statements about what my experience is and is not which hits a nerve. Overall I didn't experience your comments as distressing or the like, I'm just wanting to note those things. These are, of course, difficult conversations to navigate for anyone for obvious reasons as are many topics that are sensitive and emotionally charged.
And yes it's obvious from my post that I do feel a crime has been committed by both my former partner and the organization (as you summarized.) It is unfortunate that neither he nor the organization has demonstrated a willingness to be accountable - but also not surprising cause "cults gonna cult." I am not sure that I can change that and I definitely cannot change them if they aren't interested in changing. I certainly cannot change all of "rape culture" though it would be nice if I could.
I do not think that what has happened is acceptable whatever else others may feel my statements and feelings reflect. I am also NOT just now realizing how bad or harmful it was as you've stated in your earlier comment. I've always known what I experienced was a big deal. There probably are some ways I minimized his responsibility and rationalized the abuse that was not healthy in the past in order to maintain the connection and in order to protect myself from feeling the full weight and devastation of the experience all at once. Processing that event and the accompanying complex dynamics and emotions has not happened all at once but in pieces over time with significant support. Getting to a place where one can both articulate a complex and traumatic experience let alone be emotionally stable enough and well enough to risk sharing publicly takes time - but that doesn't mean I wasn't aware of the seriousness of the incident back then. It's likely that there are people who could not see what was happening to me internally or who are making many different assumptions about me and my experience based on the fact that I had a relationship with Alex after this incident. The assumptions others make are another thing I don't have control over. I basically could use/have had to grow another layer of skin the past six months.
If I understand your comment correctly you put forward that the lack of accountability and punishment is a contributor to "rape culture". I agree with that. You mention considering the impact on the world that "a lack of accountability" would have and I just want to say that I've probably more deeply considered this than most people have. I am not advocating for a lack of accountability - but I do care about my ex-partner as a human being.
In an ideal world, if either Alex or the MA were willing ( and I don't get the sense that they are) my preference in this specific situation would be for accountability and healing to happen through financial compensation for harm, restoratives processes, organizational changes, education focused on addressing misconduct, the removal of the "spiritual teacher" from any position of power in the organization due to his ongoing history of negligence and abuse which many people have attempted to address for many years, and the person(s) who harmed me seeking professional rehabilitative and therapeutic support outside the organization. The behaviors described above and others I experienced with my ex-partner were abusive and/or were unhealthy and it was unhealthy for me to have a relationship with him in spite of these violations and the red flags I was seeing. In many ways Alex is also a beautiful person whom at times greatly inspired me, but like many people who perpetuate unhealthy patterns including abusive behaviors he has his own history of trauma and abuse he has experienced. He continues to participate those addictive patterns and unhealthy relationships through his involvement with the MA while believing himself to be pursuing liberation. I hope at some point he will pursue real therapuetic intervention and support instead of simply trying to meditate his problems away. I do believe there is a path to restoration and healing for my ex-partner and for those who were involved in covering it up if they choose to engage with accountability, restoration, and healing. I cannot make him or anyone else walk that path - and at this point it's time for me heal from that relationship (which was a real mindfuck) and to examine what factors/behaviors in my own life contributed to my engagement in a dynamic that was clearly unhealthy for me after abuse had occurred.
When I think of "severe punishment" I think of prison time - and persons who've committed crimes being placed in often hostile and violent environments. Wanting a loved one to be accountable and to address harmful and abusive acts or patterns of behavior is very different from wanting maximum retribution or inflicting extreme suffering on another which I think rarely leads to deep inner change and healing for individuals, between people, and for communities. I think there is probably not a one size fits all solution for crime- and that there are experts in this field who have more insight than I do about how to address the systemic nature of these issues.
As it currently stands very few legal cases pressing for rape result in convictions - and the consequences and impacts of sexual assault undoubtedly fall disproportionality to victims. I am however not opposed to considering legal action - but I do haft to consider the costs, benefits/drawbacks, and impact that a trial might have on myself/others just as I consider the impact on myself and on other people who will be impacted when I write or engage in conversations in a public forum.
I am not looking to receive a sense of closure from message boards - and there are many ways that I'm actively engaged and supported in my recovery that go beyond this space. Trust me when I say I am taking care of myself as well as I know how to do. Seeking closure is not my purpose here - and while you may think it is advisable to simply disengage (and there may be a time and place for that) at my own discretion I have my reasons for continuing to write about this experience.
There is a lot of context in this situation that is not readily apparent to someone reading these posts and which when it comes to writing and reading "ain't nobody got time for that". Complex context and emotions make it more challenging for me to decide what to share and not share - and likely make it difficult for readers to fully understand the various emotions, motivations, and the perspective(s) that I do share.
I can tell you what is a primary motivator for me. In this situation, too many other people have been harmed and will be harmed in this particular environment (and if we are talking about sexual assault and rape in general that extends far beyond this environment)- and I have had multiple conversations with past residents who felt they "should have done more" or whom even tried to address various issues with the organization to prevent harm to others without success. Few people are willing to share their own stories though for a multitude of reasons - and that choice is up to them and it's understandable why some people choose not to. That along with a stubborn determination to not be silenced, or to allow those who've mistreated me to benefit from my "distancing myself and moving on". I do think that this experience has shown me the deep level of complicity many of us have had through our silence - and that is a pattern I wish to break from. I do not wish to be complicit in my own abuse or the abuse of others through my silence. However, "not unique" my experience it feels important to me to speak about it until I'm finished. I'm sure the man who assaulted me and the MA would LOVE for me to simply go away, disengage from these communities, and not speak about my experience because then they could simply deny it, let it blow over, and carry on with business as usual. As long as I am alive and they remain unaccountable I do not intend on making that easy. Only I can decide when, how, and if that's what I want to do and what best serves me as you've already noted above.
Thanks for reading and engaging. Be well.
Thank you for this response and for so clearly pointing out these issues. I also found this comment offensive and hostile - and do not think I could have better or more concisely articulated these points as you have or that they would have been as well-received coming from myself. I appreciate the clarity, awareness, and directness in your response.
This might be a good invitation to examine the "wiring" we've received about sexual violence and how it may both support and/or limit our ability to engage with these issues. Perhaps what you are picking up on is that my views hold more complexity and nuance than what you've attempted to reduce them to here - and yet I think you are picking up on and highlighting some important things.
I do think the violation of sexual consent( I.e sexual assault or rape) is a serious crime and an act of violence that causes real harm. It's worth noting that rape victims seldom receive justice through the courts and that a trial process can often be retraumatizing. Each person must make their own choice about whether they want to pursue that path as a means to retribution and if the cost, risk, and time is worth it to them.
I also do not think that all acts of sexual violence are created equal. For example, my experience was not the same thing as having my life threatened with a weapon as an act of sexual coercion - and those experiences should probably not be evaluated or penalized in the same way. Still, a serious violation of my agency occurred and the resulting psychological, relational, and emotional harm and suffering as a result of the physical violation AND the ways in which I was treated after the assault has been significant.
The language used to speak about sexual violence is limited. It might be helpful if our language and definitions of sexual violence were more nuanced, included more categories, and were more specific about the types of experiences people are having - but they are not. The issue of what language to use and how to articulate an experience is frequently a challenge for many people when writing about various forms of sexual violence.
I'm not sure that "a serious crime that must be punished severely" or "permanently destroying his life" is an approach that many people want to apply to any person they've loved - and you are right in recognizing that that is not what I want for the person who assaulted me. I think Alex's actions have also caused himself pain and suffering - which he alludes to in his description of overwhelming shame and confusion. What I do think would probably be an ideal response is financial restitution for the cost of recovery and lost wages over the past year and a half, acknowledgment of the harm done by himself and the organization - especially to other members of the MA's community, some kind of restorative process that involves both of us, and a commitment to continued education focused on sexual violence and consent and rehabilitative/counseling services regarding these issues and whatever underlying attitudes or traumas maybe driving Alex's harmful patterns of behavior for a certain period of time. This seems unlikely to occur while Alex remains a part of the MA - and it is clear that according to his own account Soryu, his teacher whom has motive to have these claims denied, seems to be actively supporting Alex's denial of responsibility. I also think the organization needs to engage in a similar process of making repairs for the harm they've caused, in developing accountability - especially regarding the extensive harm Soryu has caused over the past ten years, and in outside training for their leaders and teachers regarding how to appropriately handle issues of misconduct if/when they arise. At this point in time, both those outcomes seem very unlikely - and I am still figuring out what to do from here.
It's also worth noting that I think a punitive model of justice such as exists in our country is generally not a helpful response to most crimes - so it follows that I don't necessarily know if that model is effective at addressing the core issues that contribute toward sexual violence and/or repairing the harm done to victims. That approach may be an appropriate response to some cases, but it also makes it harder for both victims and perpetrators to talk about and acknowledge wrongdoing, engage in rehabilitation, education, restorative processes, and/or make amends. I do not claim to be an expert of such matters - but am noting that our current approach to sexual violence and legal system has been highly ineffective.
Worth noting that I reached out directly to Soryu by email at the time of the events and that I requested conversations with Soryu multiple times in 2021 prior to any public acknowledgment of these issues to discuss these issues and specifically his role in these incidents. Soryu had a direct role in instructing others on how to respond to and treat me in these events. These requests for conversation were entirely ignored and Soryu has not been willing to speak to me about any of these events in the year and a half since they happened. I still have not had a direct conversation with any member of MAPLES leadership since these events - which goes to show how "seriously" they are taking these issues.
Thank you for sharing this reflection. I straightforwardly agree with you - and have also felt conflicted re: different definitions and laws and the limited language we have to describe these experiences about what term to use. Part of the motivation for sharing is that I know I'm not alone in this kind of experience, even if the specific details differ across the experiences of many different people. Thank you for witnessing.
Razied, what you have written here and in Alex's comments is indicative of rape culture - and the reality of "human courtship" is that women are tired of being sexually assaulted. Almost every single woman and probably most men will recognize this as a straightforward description of sexual assault or rape. What you are describing may be a common approach people take but also often leads to situations in which people, usually women get hurt. Even the scenario you described in your comment does not at all fit my experience with Alex. One should never go from 0 to 100 in a sexual encounter - and in this case, there was "zero" opportunity to say "slow down" or "stop" - and he did break my trust, clearly I could NOT trust him to respect the boundaries we had set, or to take a walk or to go swimming with him.
Without both parties' consent and without freewill any sexual encounter IS sexual assault. What you have written grossly ignores the reality in which there are many circumstances and reasons for which a person - usually a woman may not feel safe enough to say No and that does not mean she is a willing participant. This could be anything from the sheer size and physical dominance of the assailant to the assailant is her boss and she has two children at home depending on her pay to previous experiences of sexual violence to she already set a boundary and said no but he has continued to push her boundaries anyways.
"Alex is a normal guy going by the actual practice of consent" <- This is the whole problem right here. So much misunderstanding and sexual violence stems from this kind of thinking.
First of all, that's bullshit. You weren't there and you are not the one living with the impact of Alex's actions. Secondly, "Normal guys" who engage in the behaviors you described can and do sexually assault women both intentionally and unintentionally -- which is why I am now advocating for and am now requiring a "yes means yes" approach in my own personal life. There are also as the above response indicates many men who can and do understand the importance of talking to the women they engage with and affirming that there is consent. "Normal guys" need to educate themselves about consent, to behave in sexually responsible ways, to understand the impact they have, and to make amends when they cause harm. In this case, this is known as a "non-violent" assault. I do not think violent and nonviolent sexual assaults are the same- and I think that the stigma and "baggage" you've mentioned is exactly what makes it difficult for many men (and women) to be honest about and to have difficulty discussing issues of sexual violence.
Please educate yourself about what sexual violence and consent "actually" are- because what you are sharing shows that you may not understand how to navigate consent in a healthy way which can be detrimental to both the people you interact with AND to yourself. I am not saying you are a bad person but what you are saying here is a clear indicator that you are unsafe to the women you interact with within a sexual context (not to mention your distinct lack of compassion towards myself or general social awareness.)
I also want to point to the fact that Alex was in an explicit position of power in which he had a responsibility to hold the retreat container. These are rhetorical questions but I say these because it sounds like you are a meditator. Can you imagine going to a silent meditation retreat - a place you have been told was safe, trustworthy, and a place for meditation, reflection, and growth - and then being sexually assaulted by the director? Can you imagine having your first really powerful awakening experience and being in such a vulnerable state - and being mistreated by not only that person but also by other leadership members and then being sent away from the sangha unexpectedly for a sexual act that you had no choice in and which went against your explicitly stated wishes? Can you imagine what it would be like to know that someone you loved had betrayed you because his "spiritual teacher" told him to? Can you imagine struggling through waves of anxiety and aversion for months every time you sat down to meditate - when before it had been a deeply healing, calming, transformative, and beneficial awakening practice?
Nowhere in my writing have I labeled Alex or said this man is a bad person, I have simply described the events in question and why I feel that sexual assault is an accurate characterization. In fact, on the contrary, I have stated publicly in my open letter that I wish for Alex to have real support and accountability, increased awareness and education, have a healthy community and be cared for, and be able to heal. Still, what Alex did and the way he has treated me since then is not ok. I will not be silenced as Alex and others have attempted to do in the past. I will speak frankly about my experiences which exist within a much larger social and cultural context in which sexual violence needs to be examined and addressed and within the context of an organization that is still causing harm to vulnerable people.
You are right, others also need to be accountable for their actions and participation. I do think, that there is a dynamic at the MA in which Soryu has a lot of power over people in the space in ways that are unique to this kind of group that needs to be accounted for and that Soryu and the board need to be accountable for maintaining a program design that is known to cause serious harm. I suspect that if everyone involved in causing harm or in acting unethically to cover harm up in this organization were held accountable there wouldn't be any or there would be very few core leaders left. Nearly everyone has been complicit, and there is a lot of deep learning and healing needed between many community members.
Actually Matt you don't seem to understand what the actual definition of what responsibility is.
Here are a few links:
https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/responsibility#:~:text=1[uncountable%2C countable] a,responsibility for the European market.
I personally think it is extremely problematic for people to be given positions of greater responsibility in a role without behaving responsibly or being accountable for their impact. Hence the dozens of people that exist whose lives have been very fucked up as a result of engaging with Soryu. Many of whom do know him personally and whom know him better then you do and who spent much longer working and training with Soryu then you have. Some for over 5 years. Some who helped start the organization and have since seen many people leave broken and traumatized as a result of Soryu's abuse and irresponsibility. As founder and head teacher Soryu is responsible and should be held accountable for many things within the organization but specifically for his actions and the actions he has instructed his students to carry out thereby abusing his position of influence and power as a spiritual teacher.
It's funny to me that you can even talk about responsibility or anything else this organization supposedly stands for. Yet you don't seem to think Soryu is responsible for literally instructing his students to coverup an incident sexual assault by an executive director, and telling that director that he doesn't not have a choice except to participate, get rid of the woman he is in love with, and resume a position of power. Yes that man should also be held accountable for his choices as well as others who participated - but that does not mean Soryu should be given a free pass on the harm he personally caused in my life (it doesn't matter if I met him) through his actions and his decisions. Which were then carried out by his students. Either he is brainwashing and indoctrinating people or everyone in the organization also has questionable ethics and morals. Which one is it? You have a real point though that he is not the only responsible party here - in fact the other three main responsible parties in this situation in my sexual assault and in covering it up have all gone out of their way to block any communication with me so that might tell you a thing or two about the how responsible and compassionate they have become as a result of being a part of MAPLE.
Lastly, I know for a fact from speaking to many other women about what they experienced that these sorts of things have happened multiple times. This is far from the first situation where Soryu has been involved in covering up sexual harassment and sexual abuse most of which has happened at MAPLE when incidents were reported directly to him - he has followed the same patterns and script almost to a T to suppress, silence, and deny issues of sexual misconduct. I have zero doubts in my mind that if Soryu continues to be a teacher without radically becoming a different person which I don't think he is capable of as many people have attempted to address issues directly with Soryu over the last decade - that more people will be harmed in many different ways including more incidents of sexual harassment and abuse bring mishandled. But maybe you are one of those followers who seem to believe that it is ok for him to harm others because he is doing "good", because the risks are justifiable, or because you personally get to benefit from it.
No real or legitimate restorative justice will be possible without Soryu also being held responsible and accountabile for his actions; and stepping down from teaching and the board of directors while a third party investigation happens. If you truly cared for the suffering that I and so many other past students have endured you would be asking for the same thing and asking for real responsibility, accountability, growth, increased awareness, compassion for suffering, and integrity in the organization you support and are a party of instead of attempting to defend the organization's irrepressible behavior in online forum. The reality is you don't know the stories I do, you don't know the history of this organization as indicated by your incorrect reference to OAK being less then a year old on your comment on Medium which has since been updated, and you are not seeing these issues clearly.