Will this multi-millionaire of Corvino, Southern California, USA, and a high official in the Sathya Sai Organization continue to ignore responsibly-made sexual abuse allegations against Sai Baba by a mother of a then teenage boy? Will he continue to say, as he told his old friend (the late) Glen Meloy, that the allegations are merely “old hat”.
Survivors have a right to tell their stories of abuse – without being assailed or vilified. Or told that their experience was hallucinatory. Or that they are not, in all reality, their body but their supreme soul. Or that they should forget the past and “move on”. Or that God, fully manifest in Sai Baba, has His ways, and who are we to bring Him down to our own level of understanding? Or that they are liars because they may stumble over details of memory – in what, after all, is a terribly confusing, traumatic ordeal.
What more reasonable course of action – one would think – than to turn to presumably responsible officers of their spiritual organization? But Sai Baba and his officials around the world have repeatedly done what they can to suppress the stories. In short, he and top Sathya Sai Organization leaders such as the late Dr John Hislop, Dr Michael Goldstein, Dr William Harvey, Dr John C. Evans, Robert Bozzani, Phyllis Krystal, Indulal Shah, Dr G. Venkataraman, Dr Narendra Reddy, Ashok Bhagani, Steen Piculell, J. Jagadeesan, and many others, have much to answer for – in many cases, from decades back.
After considerable efforts in discussion with former devotees around the world, I can find only one written response by a Sathya Sai Organization official. This was by Dr John C. Evans to a letter that details several major concerns by a former devotee Ella Evers of Eugene, Oregon. She had strenuously sought out direct Sai Baba sex abuse survivor statements and, along with many others in the Sathya Sai Organization of the USA, tried to get Dr Michael Goldstein, Bob Bozzani and other foremost US Sai Baba officials to act responsibly. In his letter to her (August 20, 2000), the then President of the Sathya Sai Organization in America, Dr John C. Evans, totally ignores her points and queries, showing absolute disregard for the terrible suffering she reports. He quotes a saying of Sai Baba:
“If one voices criticism loudly, it will be lost in thin air, if one criticizes within, it goes to one’s own self”.
In other words, the woman should criticize herself, and shut up. (But, then, what would an almost exclusively male-dominated Management know about the rights of a woman to speak up?! And why the preponderance of medical doctors through Sai Baba’s top leadership – wouldn’t one think that they would have some ethical grounding in matters of duty-of-care?).
We have written testimony from the late Glen Meloy about his attempt to alert his old friend Robert Bozzani about a mother’s concerns that her teenage son had been sexually molested by Sai Baba. Bob Bozzani is a Regional President, member of the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of The United States of America, and Senior Trustee for the Sathya Sai Baba Society of America. Glen Meloy relates that a long-time friend had given him extensive details of her son’s severe and repeated molestation by Sai Baba. She asked him to contact Bozzani, whom he had known for twenty-six years, to discuss a submission from the family and other documentation that had already been sent to Bozzani. The documentation had first been sent to Meloy, who relates:
“She was confident in her heart that Mr Bozzani and other officials would realize the serious implications involved and subsequently disband the entire organization in the USA. Unfortunately, this would not be the case. When I called Bob, he acknowledged that he had received and read the letter and the testimony from the son … Bob then went on to say that the mistake devotees make is when they try to bring God down to the human level and that was inappropriate because all of us either had to accept him as God or not.”
Here was a high-ranking Sai Baba official, Bozzani, a Sai devotee for over two decades, side-stepping a clear duty-of-care. That is intolerable. Would this lack of responsible process be tolerated in countless workplaces and in institutions civic or religious? Bob Bozzani might pause to think how proper policies and processes relating to sexual abuse and harassment exist in companies such as those in which he has served.
Bob Bozzani is a contributor of millions of dollars to Sai Baba projects – one of them the cancelled multi-million International Sai School in Denmark, which former Sai Baba devotee efforts exposed to the Danish government, municipal authorities and the public via television, radio and newspapers. On January 30, 2002, Danish Broadcasting aired Øjvind Kyrø’s 54-minute documentary on the Sai Baba Exposé, ‘Seduced’, with a number of repeats. It was released elsewhere, including Australia where the multi-cultural national broadcaster SBS resisted threats of litigation by T. Sri Ramanathan, then head of the Sathya Sai Organization. SBS screened the documentary, retitling it ‘Seduced by Sai Baba’. Reportedly, Robert Bozzani donated $US 6 million for the International Sai School project, but amidst good old-fashioned Danish community outrage, the sale to Sai Baba officials of the famous castle Arresødal in a fashionable suburb of Copenhagen was cancelled. Bozzani’s close colleagues Thorbjörn Meyer, Central Co-coordinator for Europe, and the Danish businessman Jørgen Trygved, who was chairman of the ‘Sai international school’ fund board, failed. To expensively no purpose, they had retained the topmost litigation lawyers in Denmark in repeated litigation actions against Danish Broadcasting.
Robert Bozzani’s directorship on the Sathya Sai Society of America is all the more noteworthy when one considers that he is one of those whom Alaya Rahm – who has given an account of being sexually abused many times when in his teens by Sai Baba – tried to litigate against in 2006. At this time Rahm’s pro bono – yes, is pro bono worth the non-cost?! – lawyer, William Brelsford of southern California, in my view seriously failed to foresee a number of problems among which was that concerning whom or what entity to sue. In what looks to have been all too late in the piece, Brelsford, after the court had proceeded uncomfortably far with scarcely any, much less adversarial client representation, advised his client to proceed no further – indeed on terms crassly unfavourable to Alaya Rahm that have been gravely criticized by other lawyers.
We hold evidence (but withhold the individual’s details) that Sai Baba had genitally ‘oiled’ a close member of Bozzani’s family. Let those Sai devotees whom we learn are starting to raise questions, and attempting to reform the Sathya Sai Organization from within, ask Bozzani about these matters. Why – given that others have approached him for guidance and assistance – has he concealed the evidence that a sexual offence has occurred within his own family? The Indian law does not allow Sai Baba or anyone else, except doctors in appropriate clinical circumstances, to touch a person’s genitals without their mature-age and responsible consent. Let Sai devotee rank-and-file members ask Robert Bozzani:
- Given that the allegation is true, what age was your family member when the event occurred?
- And what was the age of that boy mentioned by Glen Meloy whose mother turned to you? Was it not 15 years old when the offences alleged occurred?
- Was it true that many devotees knew Glen Meloy to be an immensely supportive decent and honorable person?
- Is it the case that Glen Meloy turned to you on behalf of the woman and her son and you did nothing by way of support?
- What is your conception of the notion: Duty-of-care?
- Have not those who have come to you and your fellow leaders with their accounts been in a state of terrible suffering, and did you and the leadership cut yourselves off from them?
- Where do you stand in regard to Mandatory Reporting of allegations of sexual abuse?
- Have you all along concealed from the members of the Sathya Sai Organization the good standing, both within the Sai Baba and the wider community, of various individuals and families who have come to you and your leadership colleagues with serious accounts that Sai Baba has touched the genitals, and indeed in some cases done things like getting boys and young men to suck his penis – in short, doing what the centermost laws and cultural-ethical mores of many countries unambiguously forbid?
- Do you see that rank-and-file members Sathya Sai Organization have a right to information that would allow them to make their own minds up about whether to allow their male children to travel to Sai Baba and, in some cases, allow them to be students in his colleges?
- Did you read, as stated by Glen Meloy, highly detailed, specific documentation from a family well known and respected by many Sai devotees, especially in southern California, for their devotion to Sai Baba?
Refusal to have proper mechanisms in place for the hearing of complaints has put the Sai Organization light years behind today’s demand for accountability. On April 3, 2003, the then Australian head of the Sathya Sai Organisation of Australia, T. Sri Ramanathan, phoned to threaten dire legal consequences for me (he was all bluff and bullying, of course) if I did not “cease and desist”. I suggested that any organisation, including his, is wise to have a workable complaints mechanism, otherwise unaddressed grievances are bound to create problems. He said I was “clouding the issue” and that the only issue was “Swami’s glory”. There was no need, he said, for such a mechanism in the Sathya Sai Organisation, which is “special and different to any other organisation.” It was, he said, “a divine organisation”.
But survivors of abuse will not share their stories with people like Bob Bozzani and others who hide behind smoke screens and do not show them love, respect and understanding – or at least some degree of professionalism.
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