Ashram's doctor Henry Sztulman 'was blind to child sex'

The Daily Telegraph, Australia/December 10, 2014

By Janet Fife-Yeomans

The doctor at a Sydney ashram where children were ­beaten and raped by the guru saw nothing wrong happening, the child sex abuse royal commission was told yesterday.

Dr Henry Sztulman even gave evidence for Akhandananda Saraswati at his trial for child sexual assault because he did not ­believe the young women who said they were forced to have sex with the swami, the commission heard.

He said he never saw any evidence that the children were beaten and slapped and had “no idea” that Akhandananda and his second in charge, Shishy, whose name has been suppressed, were having sex even though they slept ­together in the same room.

Dr Sztulman, who lived at the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain from 1979 for a decade, said he found Akhandananda charismatic and held him in high regard.

“He seemed to be a man of wisdom,” Dr Sztulman said.

The commission heard that he continues to practise as a doctor after being reprimanded by the Medical Tribunal in 2002 and found guilty of professional misconduct for prescribing drugs of addiction.

The tribunal found Dr Sztulman to be naive, irresponsible and easily manipulated.

“It could well be that his ­insulation from general practise while at the ashram contributed to his limited understanding of the issues of manipulative drug addicted patients,” the tribunal said in its judgment.

Dr Sztulman told the commission that when he realised the truth, it hit him like ‘‘an earthquake”.

The commission sitting in Sydney is investigating the ­response of the ashram between 1974 and 2014 to allegations or reports of child sexual abuse against Akhandananda, who has since died of alcoholism. The hearing continues.

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