In this episode of the podcast, I am speaking with Nadine Stellavato Brown, a graphic designer living in Washington state. Nadine grew up in 3HO, a community created by Yogi Bhajan and his followers. She speaks about the trauma she experienced being sent away from her parents at 2 years of age, being underfed and abused in India, being groped by Yogi Bhajan as a young woman, and her eventual decision to "take off her turban" and leave the organization. I am so honored to have her share her story on the podcast, and lend her voice to a chorus of truth coming forth from this community.
Nadine's Written Testimonial:
"I’m Nadine (Hari Kaur) the daughter of Richard Lasser (MSS Baba Singh) and Andrea Opalenik (SS Krishan Kaur).
This is my story.
At two years old my parents became Sikhs. The same year I was sent to live in the D.C. Ashram. I lived in various Ashrams and was part of the first kids sent to India from ages 2-16. This alone is riddled with so much anguish and grief in my life and yet was not the worst.
At 16 I insisted I move home - and attended a western school.
In 1990 I graduated high school and was asked by the Yogi Ji (SSS) to take a year off to work at the Secretariat.
All I really wanted at the time was to go to college, to spread my wings. I knew at a young age Sikhism was not for me. Yet, I dutifully listened to the master my parents picked.
I was told to work under MSS Nirinjan Kaur, one of his secretaries. She immediately starts to “groom” me. She would frequently ask, “If SSS asked you to work full time as a secretary, would you consider not going to college?”
One of my many duties was to “clean his room” and set it up for sleeping. They were clear with me who took care of him at night with the implication I could be called to do the same soon.
Many nights I would be with SSS and his “Entourage” at Dr Allen’s house. One night he called my father and me into the back room. He started to yell at me, that I was a slut, was I even a virgin? He said that a kid I grew up with, told him I was a flirt. And yogi did not believe my answers. I was devastated.
A second time, again at Dr. Allen’s house, the yogi again called my father and me into the back room. This time to compliment a certain dress I had on. He told me the dress was “sexy” and I was to only wear that style from then on, he proceeded to push money into my hand to buy more.
Finally, in the late fall of 1990, I was at Dr. Allen’s cleaning SSSs room. He came across me. He made me stand up, asked me to twirl around, then he proceeded to put both of his hand on my breast, he squeezed them. He turned me around and did the same to my butt. I was scared, we were alone. I was mortified. He said, “You are almost ready, and turning out very nicely.”
As soon as I could I ran home.
I told my dad what happened. That I would never go back. Because he had been in the room the previous two encounters, he believed me.
But it did not end there.
When the SSS found out I would not got back, he asked my parents to disown me. He harassed me, he harassed my parents. He got kids I grew up with to call me, ask me not to go.
In December of 1990 we all took off our turbans.
You have to understand my dad was the first student to put on a turban. He was devoted he and the community never thought this would happen. Now everyone knows, he stood by his daughter.
And.... I was lucky, I still had my family. I not only had my mother and father, but I also had and still have my lovely god-parents Sat Shakti Singh and Andrea Khalsa (Sat Shakti Kaur) and Akasha Richmond, who was and still is my saving grace. There are so many who never had that support.
I believe all the stories, I respect all those who share and those who cannot. The pain and shame are real."
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