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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
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How #MeToo men get away with it

He got away with it. He was tried in the American justice system, and he got away with it. The new Netflix documentary “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator,” reveals the scary truth behind the leader of one of the most famous and sought-after yoga practices in America.

The director, Eva Orner, details the terrifying tale of Bikram Choudhury, a yogi from India who brought a new twist to intense Los Angeles workout fads. This documentary tells the true story of the diabolical leader who gained fame and a cult-like following for his degrading style of teaching.

From insulting the shape of a client’s body to refusing to let them use the restroom, the boundary of inappropriate comments and verbal abuse did not exist inside this “torture chamber,” as the yogi describes it himself. With this following and idol-like status, Choudhury preyed on young women who took his classes by raping, abusing and sexually harassing them.

As Orner shows, this punishing 90 minute class was widely seen by celebrities and LA natives alike as a rejuvenating and life-changing experience. They became addicted to the environment, and even more to the style that Choudhury presented.

After years of abusing various women, one woman stepped forward into the media and the civil court system to expose Choudhury’s pattern of rape and sexual violence. After her, a string of other women followed. These women risked everything, including their livelihoods as yoga instructors; they were ostracized from their communities and vilified by their friends and coworkers, and they got very little out of their legal efforts.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#cecece” txt_color=”#000000″]“There is still much work to be done, and it is important to be aware of the power dynamics and mind games that many powerful men use to corner their victims and to continue their pattern of dangerous and traumatizing behavior.”[/mks_pullquote]

This documentary presents a unique look at how powerful men manage to get away with sexual assault and violence in modern society. It is a pre #MeToo era film that is presented in a post #MeToo world.

Orner shows how powerful predators create environments of hostility, rife with sexual abuse and intimidation, followed by a cult-like community supporting them, in order to keep secrets. This ensures that when victims speak out, supporters are quick to condemn survivors’ stories and instead back up their leader’s behavior.

To this day, reporting sexual abuse continues to be stigmatized to the point of keeping women and men from ever naming their assailant or coming forward about the trauma they experienced. Repeatedly, when a woman comes forward about an assault, she is questioned about the clothes she was wearing, the drinks she had or the way she was behaving.

For male survivors, the shame of being labeled a victim is debilitating. Men and women both feel that as survivors, they share the blame for any sexual violence that happened to them.

However, the recent public attention and prosecutions of powerful men for their attacks has created a minute shift in the way society looks at assault.

The number of reported sexual assaults here at St. Joe’s has increased from one report in 2017 to seven reports in 2018. While this looks like more assaults are happening, it could really mean that more people are reporting when it does occur.

According to the St. Joe’s Climate Study from 2017, 66% of survivors said they felt responsible for their attack. Of the pool of survivors, 59% told a friend, and 41% did nothing. The most alarming reality from this study is that the survivors articulated that the reason they did not report was because they felt that the violent conduct they received was “not serious enough to report.”

As a community, our rate of reporting has increased, which is a positive thing because it shows that we are at least improving the comfort people feel about coming forward. However, there is still much work to be done, and it is important to be aware of the power dynamics and mind games that many powerful men use to corner their victims and to continue their pattern of dangerous and traumatizing behavior.

Bikram Choudhury was tried in several civil cases and found guilty, yet he fled the country and has since been considered a fugitive of the U.S. To this day, Choudhury is continuing to teach Bikram yoga and he still holds teacher trainings where vulnerable women and men blindly follow his lead in the hopes of changing their lives through yoga.

It takes courage for victims to speak up and talk about their assault. Let’s stand with those who take the leap and risk everything for the truth, and believe women when they come forward.

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