Member question the ethics of Trust Yoga in handling sexual assault complaints after a yoga instructor was alleged of sexually assaulting students

The ethics of Trust Yoga’s management team in handling sexual assault complaints was questioned by its member following one of the yoga instructors being accused of sexually assaulting students.

Claiming herself as to be a member of Trust Yoga, a netizen who goes by Ni Chia Min Judy took to her Facebook page on Friday (21 Aug) to express that she was upset for the victims and felt unsafe returning to the yoga studio after reading the stories shared by the sexual assault victims who had spoken up on social media.

“Some of these sexual assault accounts date back as early as April 2019. It scares me to think that for the past one year of practice with Trust Yoga, the management has been keeping us all in the dark, and continued to allow Raj [the yoga instructor who allegedly sexual assault] to teach in Trust Yoga,” she said.

She added that the yoga studio has even allowed the yoga instructor to remain on the teaching schedule for another 22 days even after being reported.

Addressing the responses given by Trust Yoga after the incidents, she also doubted the management team’s questionable ethics in handling all these sexual assault complaints from alleged victims.

Trust Yoga’s questionable ethics

According to the netizen, Trust Yoga is “trying to silence victims” as some of the victims who asked for refunds were told by the one of the Trust Yoga’s owners, Shiou An, to sign a termination form instead.

“On the termination form, the victim has to accept that she is terminating her membership because another student was allegedly sexually assaulted, not because they themselves were sexually assaulted. Those victims who refused to sign the termination form with the above stated reason were unable to get a refund. (refer to screenshot),” she wrote.

The second issue is the dishonesty of Trust Yoga, Ms Judy had learned from Instagram stories posted by one of the sexual assault victims that the staff were aware of the sexual assault incidents but the owners’ statement is contradictory.

“Two staff at Trust Yoga had clearly witnessed the instructor Raj assaulting a girl. After which, Raj apologised to the victim in front of the two Trust Yoga staff. There are also multiple victims accounts that they were touched inappropriately during class and they have also notified the Trust Yoga staff after.

“Then why is it that when Charmaine Lim reached out to Trust Yoga after she was assaulted, the owners told her that this was their first time hearing of such an incident?” she asserted.

Doubting the accountability of Trust Yoga, she also pointed out that the credibility of the investigation is questionable as the “internal investigation is done by a bunch of enablers who have been turning a blind eye to assault victims”.

She then said that she has not seen “any result from their investigations” since the first sexual assault complaint emerged and the first official statement was released by Trust Yoga.

The netizen also claimed that Trust Yoga does not care about students given that the yoga instructor still remained on the teaching roster for another three weeks after the victim reached out to them for the first time.

“During my conversation with Shiou An f2f, she said ‘You know our studio, our classes are planned a week ahead, we can’t just change like that.’ Even if they were alerted to the questionable behaviour and ethics of their instructor, the show has to go on,” the netizen wrote.

She continued, “They would rather continue to risk the wellbeing of their students than have their classes disrupted. They only took him down the teaching roster on the first day of the 3rd week, when Charmaine Lim called them out in an instastory.”

Highlighting that the yoga studio has an “inconsistent refund policy”, she said Shiou An has refused to offer a refund even she “shared with her genuinely her discomfort in continuing to practise in such an environment”, but some of her friends have received their refunds.

“I was really puzzled because some of my friends received refunds. I went on to ask why. She said, ‘Because the pole people are making a lot of noise’ and that ‘they are resorting to cyberbullying and hurting the business.’

“My interpretation is that Trust Yoga’s policy of refunds depends on whether or not their reputation is tarnished by you. If you’re a victim or you have a presence on social media, you get your refund. If you ask nicely why the refunds apply to others and not you, you do not get anything,” she noted.

The netizen also said it is disturbing that Shiou An had described victims speaking up as “cyberbullying”, noting Trust Yoga had showed a pattern of “victim-blaming”.

Not only this, she revealed that Trust Yoga has blocked all the other victims and members “who have openly spoken up against the malpractice” on its Instagram.

“I personally believe that them blocking everyone who has decided to speak up speaks volumes of their business ethics & further affirms that it is only right to hold them responsible. Are they waiting for everything to blow over and for people to forget so that they can carry on the way things were?” she said.

Sharing why she chose to speak up, she expressed that “it is very important to hold Trust Yoga and its management team responsible” though she is not a victim.

“It is not just about the perpetrator’s criminal investigation. How about the studio’s managing of repeated sexual assault complaints over the past one year or more?

“It is not as simple as terminating Raj as an instructor at Trust Yoga. If Shiou An and Manoj, as the owners of Trust Yoga, had handled situations with victims coming forward with sincerity and transparency, the management could have prevented more students from getting hurt,” she remarked.

Noting that Shiou An was supposed to be someone who could empathise and assist these women as a fellow woman, she was shocked with her “deplorable” response to sexual assault victims who reached out to her when she said, “You girls are too pretty, maybe that’s why.”

“If not for social media, would there be a voice for victims to speak up about their ordeals? Would abusers like Raj continue on in Trust Yoga protected by women like Shiou An and Manoj Deshwal?

“I am neither canceling Trust Yoga nor ‘engaging in cyberbullying to hurt their business’ (Shiou An’s words). All I am asking for is for Trust Yoga to clarify and take responsibility for their actions. This is an opportunity for them to address the public’s concerns and clear the air,” she said while imploring the public to share her post.

Trust Yoga says it acknowledges member feedback and has installed more CCTVs inside the studio

Aware of the recent allegations of neglecting member feedback, Trust Yoga was quick to respond on its Facebook page on Saturday morning (22 Aug), acknowledging that “there are rooms for improvements”.

“We are listening. We heard your requests. We value your feedbacks. We are working to make Trust Yoga a better and a safer place for yoga practices,” it wrote on its post.

According to Trust Yoga, it has completed the security system enhancement program by installing more CCTVs inside the studios to provide a wider coverage of monitoring and security to their “valued members”.

It also assured members that “we are exercising our best endeavour to make Trust Yoga a safe environment for yoga practitioners of all levels.”

Background of whole incident

On 31 July, a Singaporean woman had alleged in a tweet that she has been molested by a yoga instructor during a class at Trust Yoga on 11 July.

As she is certified to teach yoga classes, the woman said she has been practicing yoga for around two years and “very comfortable with receiving adjustments in general”.

“Two incidents occurred during class: 1) he smacked my left butt cheek when I was in a forward fold, and 2) he stroked from my left butt cheek, my crotch, to my right cheek when I was in an inversion called pincha mayurasana. It was a deliberate stroke that lasted about 3s?” she recounted on her tweet.

According to the tweet, she has told the staff about the issue, but was being told that “the teacher has molested other members before”.

The following day, she went down to the yoga studio with her father and spoke to the owner, who told them that they would take “strict action”.

She also added that she has made a police report about this incident.

Following this, Trust Yoga issued a statement on 3 Aug, noting that the “instructor involved has agreed to take a leave of absence” pending their internal investigations.

In its statement, it also asked the students who do not wish to be adjusted during classes to pick up one of the “No Adjustment” cards at the entrance of the class to communicate their preference to the instructor.

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