Sexual abuse by tantric masseurs: hotline receives dozens of reports

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Massage (Photo: Thomas Wanhoff / Wikimedia Commons). (Massage (Photo: Thomas Wanhoff / Wikimedia Commons))

Masseur Helene Baayen and relationship-expert Caroline Franssen launched a hotline where women can report sexual abuse by tantric masseurs and 'intimacy coaches'. In a month and a half, 24 reports were received against nine masseurs, NOS reports.

Tantra is a spiritual movement in Buddhism and Hinduism that is mainly associated with sexuality in the west. The nine tantric masseurs mentioned in the reports - all of them men - claim that they can help women overcome emotional blockages and sexual trauma. NOS spoke to nine women who filed reports against them. According to the victims, instead of help, the masseurs used the opportunity to sexually abuse them. They unexpectedly switched from massaging to sexual acts, in some cases escalating to penetration. At least one masseur also engaged in long-term sexual relationships with vulnerable women who approached him for therapeutic reasons.

As far as is known, four women reported this sexual abuse to the police. Three of these reports involved the same tantric masseur in Rotterdam. To date none of the reports led to prosecution. Two women were told at the police station that it was no use to file a declaration and left it at a report, according to NOS. The other two actually filed declarations. The Rotterdam police referred NOS to the Public Prosecutor. The Prosecutor told the broadcaster that sexual abuse by tantric masseurs is not registered separately. "But this type of declaration is always taken seriously and always leads to investigation", a spokesperson said to the broadcaster. "The point is that investigation into sex crime is complicated in general, and certainly when it comes to tantra massages."

According to the two women behind the hotline, the masseurs involved work in a very calculating way. "They anticipate that women who were victims of sexual violence 'let more be done to them' than women who haven't experienced it. The women stiffen, step out of their bodies and can not respond adequately in the first instance. That has nothing to do with tantra, that word is being misused by these sexual predators." they said to NOS.

Psychologist and sexologist Liesbeth Stam, who specializes in sexual abuse and assisted victims of abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, has also been confronted with reports about tantra masseurs, she said to NOS. According to her, tantric masseurs like these "exploit women" and then "lay a spiritual, semi-scientific and therapeutic blanket over their activities". She believes that the 24 reports received are just the tip of the iceberg, because in practice victims are often deeply ashamed of what happened and will not report it or talk about it. 

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