In a shocking disclosure, children as young as four were starved, tortured and drugged besides being subjected to “horrific” sexual and physical abuse at Australia’s oldest ashram founded by an Indian, a public hearing into the sexual abuse case heard yesterday.
According to the evidence presented at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, children were forced to expose their genitals to Satyananda Yoga Ashram members and drugged with morphine for minor ailments.
“I was forced to expose my genitals to ashram members and drugged with morphine for minor ailments,” said a former child resident, given the pseudonym APK.
She said she witnessed the torture of children as young as four after she moved to the ashram with her family when she was aged nine in 1978.
Families who brought their children to the Satyananda Yoga Ashram in the 1970s and 1980s thought they were giving them a better life but the commission heard the youngsters were subjected to horrific sexual and physical abuse, Sydney Morning Herald reported.
APK moved to the ashram, located on Mangrove Mountain in New South Wales, with her family when she was aged nine in 1978.
Her older sister, given the pseudonym APL, told the commission that sexual activity was banned at the ashram and those who disobeyed were punished by its leader, Swami Akhandananda Saraswati who established the ashram in 1974.
“If Akhandananda found out that any of the swamis were having sex with each other he would publicly shame them and sometimes beat them,” she said.
The commission heard that Akhandananda, who died around 17 years ago, was a serial sex abuser who forced child residents into depraved acts for his own gratification.
The commission heard that 11 children were abused by Akhandananda while living at the ashram in during the 1970s and 1980s. He told victims they would be killed, beaten or cast out if they disclosed the abuse.
The commission heard that Akhandananda began a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl after he moved to Australia from India in 1974.