Sexual Abuse And Cover-up
Posted by Barry Pittard on April 24, 2007
In 1982, an Australian woman had come up to me in much distress. She had heard around Puttaparthi that Sai Baba was not celibate as he claimed to the world but practising homosexuality. Concerned that such stories should be spreading about – and, of course, at that time thinking them outrageous – I spoke to two of Sathya Sai Baba’s foremost followers.
These were Howard Murphet (died 2004, Australia), whose books on Sai Baba have a market well beyond Sai Baba devotees and Richard Bayer then one of the top-ranking leaders of the Sathya Sai Organization in the U.S.A. Howard Murphet responded graciously, speaking of how we both knew of Baba’s ‘glory’ ‘wonders’, etc. But, Bayer to whom I spoke separately, left me standing flabbergasted by his incredibly rude reaction to what had been a query prompted by concern for the woman’s anguish and the feeling that others would be similarly hurt. I had hardly even spoken the first words, when Richard Bayer angrily turned on his heel and stormed away. (I have since learned that he had known of the allegations all along, and also, like so many Sai Baba choses as his core leaders, well known for his high-handedness). Almost immediately, I was called up to the office by Kutumb Rao (sometimes spelt Kutumbarao), the Puttaparthi ashram manager and a former judge of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. In almost no time, he told me that Sai Baba had instructed me to leave at once. This was a very great shock. It was about 8 p.m. and he refused to allow me even to stay the night. Interestingly, when I returned to Puttaparthi in November 1997 and stayed for 8 months, Sai Baba was repeatedly gracious, sometimes going out of his way to greet me in various ways, and granting an interview.
A Whisper Can Invoke Catastrophic Consequences
Similarly, Hans de Kraker, an Australian who Sai Baba appointed Western Canteen Director 1989-1997, reports being cast out on Sai Baba’s orders, along with a number of others with whom he shared his experiences of Sai Baba doing what in many countries would have to be described as inapropriate touching. These were devotees typically known for their great and selfless service to Sai Baba’s work. Hans de Kraker, now has a graphic arts business in Australia, with major corporate clients. He has spoken out boldly. I find him, by the way, to have more respect for dates and other concrete details than many people tend to, and indeed more articlulate than many who witness to Sai Baba’s sexual abuse of them. The mix-ups of e.g., dates and surrounding circumstances that can occur in accounts of survivors of traumatic episodes unfortunately play right into the hands of those who are insensitive or adversarial and unscrupulous, like defenders of their religious teachers, and not least many lawyers at whose hands many abuse victims describe themselves as being abused twice over.
Being In-denial? Or In Cover-Up Mode? Or Both?
Hans de Kraker told me that he took his concerns to the then head of the Australian Sathya Sai Organization, T. Sri Ramanathan (a former commercial judge in Sri Lanka) and another one of the Australian Sai organization’s most prominent leaders, Dr Sara Pavan (who has spent lengthy times living at Puttaparthi, serving as a doctor in Sai Baba’s Superspeciality Hospital). Hans de Kraker said that Ramanathan, who more recently has worked with senior law students at the Sydney University and the University of New South Wales, immediately went into a recital of how Sai Baba had done such wonders. One example was how (not in person but somehow mystically) Sai Baba had miraculously recovered a diary with his, Ramanathan’s law students’ examination details that he, Ramanathan had lost in Malaysia in transit to visit Sai Baba. Another was how Sai Baba had, again in some mystic sense, had made his non-functioning tape recorder work. Hans de Kraker said that Dr Pavan’s response is that one does not talk of these matters.
I think I understand the in-denial reaction from the inside. It cuts one off from commonsense, natural justice and a compassion unmixed by one’s own defense mechanisms. Click here, where in the article ‘Sai Baba and Sexual Grooming’ I have recounted my own reactions when in December 1997 Maria Quoos (now head of the Sathya Sai Organization in Poland) brought a young man to me who was troubled by his experience, in recent hours during an interview, where Sai Baba had covertly grasped his penis.
Was This ‘Grooming’ by A Sexual Predator? Voyeurism? Both?
Hans de Kraker’s report is typical and can suggest a classic pattern observed by sexual molesters, which abuse professionals term ‘grooming’. This is where the predator, often unsure of who will succumb, or how successful each overture will be, tests and proceeds gradually, until, spider-like, the perpetrator has the victim in his or her web. Hans de Kraker writes:
“During this period (1992-94), I had many (35) private audiences with Sai Baba. During these four years of travels to India, Sai Baba would perform a certain ritual each time he would call me in for a private audience or interview. He would ask me to take down my pants. He would then ‘oint’ my umbilical area, testicles and penis with oil which he ‘materialised’. I had heard of this ritual and it seemed to be ‘common knowledge’ that this was done to balance the sexual energy or kundalini. I had never thought anything of it.”
Appalled Head of Sai Baba’s Australian Organization Quits
The same sinister pattern of cover-up and denial is to be noted in Terry Gallagher’s findings. He was the head of the Sathya Sai Organization in Australia but, like a number of other leaders and rank-and-file Sai Baba followers around the world, he left after making careful enquiry into the sexual abuse allegations. In fact, Terry Gallagher’s enquiries were most extensive. Among other sources, he had spoken privately with a number of Sai Baba’s students, and comments:
“Sai Baba made no comment on our accusations and was only anxious to know who had told us these details, requesting us to tell him several times! … Sai Baba was tense and agitated, and his body language told us all that what we had found out about him was the truth!”