Predatory Grooming – Serge Benhayon style – a guest post by ‘Tibouchina’Posted: February 17, 2014
Our guest blogger gives their account of the Universal Medicine workshop experience and their observations of young girls involved, demonstrating how Benhayon grooms large groups of followers to accept his inappropriate behaviour.
NSW Child Protection Helpline 132 111
A few years ago, I attended several workshops held by Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine after being exposed to Serge’s audio recordings and meditation techniques by a friend who was convinced they had found “the truth” therein. Despite my initial skepticism toward the claims and ideas I had heard Benhayon present, and my reluctance to get involved with UM (everything about it screamed “cult”). I decided to give it a chance and check it out for myself, before dismissing it completely as the New Age nonsense I suspected it was.
I had been told that Serge was a very down to earth person (as opposed to the cliched perception of the guru draped in weird clothes), and a man of absolute integrity, who had become something of a father figure and friend to many of the people who followed his so-called “Ageless Wisdom”. Furthermore I had been assured that UM events had to be experienced to fully appreciate what was being presented.
Despite my initial misgivings, I approached my UM experience with an open mind. I didn’t go seeking to criticize or debunk, and was quietly curious to see with my own eyes whether there was substance to the seemingly supernatural claims and abilities attributed to Serge. Prior to the event, I received several “healing” treatment sessions at the UM clinic, and each time I was in the waiting room I noticed several young girls (in their early teens) coming and going. At the workshop I later attended I recognized a young woman who turned out to be Natalie Benhayon. I had seen her at the clinic, so in hindsight I assumed she was facilitating activities with the younger girls I had seen.
Several things about the weekend left me feeling uneasy. With a few exceptions, the people I met were friendly (if a little odd), however I did find several of them to be quite dogmatic in their interpretation of Serge’s ideas. While questions were welcomed, Serge’s explanations were often nonsensical and seemed designed to confuse, nevertheless his claims were generally accepted uncritically by those in attendance. Aside from the bizarre belief system being presented (and accepted), the thing that made me uncomfortable was Serge himself.
Firstly, yes, superficially Serge does come across as a normal person. He doesn’t dress in robes or anything that screams “cult leader” at first glance. He is softly spoken, disarmingly friendly, and seemingly very approachable. The first workshop involved its share of weird concepts including reincarnation, and an exercise in alleged entity possession and removal facilitated by Serge (I participated in this, and didn’t feel anything whatsoever, so either I’m possessed by entities all the time or it’s a parlour trick relying on the suggestibility of the people participating). Several of the teenage girls I had seen at the clinic were in attendance and took part in these activities, sone seemingly without parental supervision. More disturbingly, one student merrily related to me an anecdote regarding the very young child of another student who, after being exposed to Serge’s exorcism techniques, attempted to emulate them with other kids when they were playing together. The child had been conditioned to believe that her friends were host to entities when they were in excited or playful moods, and therefore needed to have these malevolent spirits expelled.
Early on in the workshop, Serge called on a young girl to help him demonstrate some of the hands-on “healing” techniques we would be learning. He addressed her by name and she appeared to be familiar with the procedure and quite happy to be involved. Because of this, and the fact that she seemed to be present without a parent or guardian, I initially assumed she must have been at least 18 years old, but after seeing her engage with other attendees over the weekend, I would guess that she was younger, perhaps around 15. She got up on the stage with Serge and lay on the massage table as Serge demonstrated the techniques, showing us where and how the practitioner places their hands.
On several occasions throughout the weekend, I witnessed this particular girl lingering around Serge as he spoke to other people, and when he was finally free she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him eagerly, and he returned in kind. It was clear that this was a familiar occurrence and while I was somewhat disturbed by what I saw, nobody else around me seemed to think anything of it. Recalling what I had been told about Serge being a “father figure” (and seeing him kiss her on the forehead during one embrace), I attempted to dismiss my own concerns about what I had seen, despite the fact that I considered it to be inappropriate, to put it mildly.
Some months later I attended one final UM event. This time I approached the workshop “in resistance” (in cult parlance), as I had read several of Serge’s books in the interim. Aside from the deliberately incomprehensible prose, content-wise they were often disturbing; karmic rape, murder and pedophilia being recurring themes, which seemed at odds with the flowery public image presented by Universal Medicine. As the weekend progressed I got a little more insight into Serge that suggested my instinctive misgivings were possibly well founded. Along with the ludicrous claims (detailed descriptions of the hijinks that supernatural beings allegedly get up to in heaven, Serge being able to transport himself into other dimensions, students studying “the ancient wisdom” in past lives beneath the Great Pyramid in Egypt), at one point Serge started describing how men with incestuous, paedophiliac tendencies were so inclined due to the influence of evil “entities” from the astral plane.
While describing this particular scenario, he acted out the part to a degree. “When a man has sexual thoughts about an underage niece, it’s not his fault. The thoughts are being impulsed to him by entities”. At this point, Serge leaned on his podium, eyes closed, holding his forehead. “He knows it’s wrong and he just can’t stop thinking about it”.
This was the last straw for me, and the last time I attended any Universal Medicine event. Just as disturbing as Serge’s relished description of the “paedophile as victim of possession” scenario was the seeming lack of concern towards this display by the adults in attendance (including academics and medical professionals – people who should know better), and the once again apparently unsupervised presence of several young girls, including those mentioned earlier.
For some time I attempted to put the whole thing behind me and just forget it, having no real context to place my experience in and nothing but my gut instincts as far as evidence goes. However, subsequent reporting by other concerned citizens with similar experiences, including exposure in the media, illustrates that my concerns about what I had witnessed may be just the tip of the iceberg. Serge may be quite the charmer, but I sincerely doubt he is the “man of utmost integrity” he constantly claims to be. Taking into consideration his questionable history with his current wife and the blatant lies he has told about his financial situation pre-UM, the fact that he has charmed so many parents into believing he is beyond reproach is disturbing in the extreme.
The name of the young girl at the workshop has been passed to the Child Protection Helpline. Our investigation reveals she was fourteen, or at the oldest fifteen at the time. I’m aware of two other names and a possible third that have been given to the Helpline – adolescent girls who have stayed unaccompanied in the Benhayon household.
We have photos of the girl and to me she looks young, and perhaps young for her age. I asked Tibouchina why they thought she might have been 18.
Serge was clearly on familiar terms with her (addressing her by name and getting her to participate in the demonstrations etc.) so I assumed she must have been 18 at the time. She seemed versed in that detached, almost zombie-like way the followers carry themselves (very deliberate walking, little to no emotion displayed). That and the fact that she seemed to be there alone. I’m not that great at guessing people’s ages either, but the other girls there were really obviously in their early teens in their general mannerisms.
When I witnessed the hugging though, that’s when the alarm bells went off. She looked absolutely besotted with him, but I had no idea about the big picture. My only frame of reference was “Serge is the purest, most amazing man ever” etc. I was told that once he and Miranda became romantically interested in each other, they lived together for a year before they finally consummated their relationship. The version of events that everyone believed was clearly an extremely whitewashed, distorted version of what actually happened and I had no access to any information to the contrary.
Tibouchina also recounted this incident.
At one point I saw Michael Benhayon standing behind a girl who was sitting down in a chair. He was gently stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers. At first glance I thought it might have been his wife but I realized it was actually one of the young teenage girls I’d also seen at the clinic. It was one more thing that felt weird then and now.
Grooming the collective – points to consider
- The grooming begins with word of mouth recruitment. I also had misgivings about going to an unqualified ‘healer’ but the friend who referred me insisted Serge was all right and it would be a helpful experience. Back then I trusted my friend’s referral, and thought they wouldn’t recommend a sleaze artist like Benhayon.
- Serge has trained his children from a young age to participate in grooming and recruiting youth and adolescents. It opens up his market and supplies him with new prey. We have EDG notes talking about unqualified Natalie Benhayon conducting youth groups where she encouraged kids as young as twelve to confess about drug, alcohol and sexual experiences – information which the Benhayons have no right to, and can be used against those kids.
- Serge comes across, at first, as a regular guy. He uses deception and thought reform techniques to insidiously condition followers to accept highly questionable practices and teachings. As cult expert, Margaret Singer states, thought reform is aimed at changing a person’s thoughts and behaviours without their knowledge (Singer, 2003, p.58). If it were Sai Baba or David Icke doing any of the above, the cult members would be mouthing off no end, and calling for ‘something to be done’.
- Personal boundaries are incrementally pushed within a group setting. Serge had no justification to use an adolescent girl as a treatment model for hands on techniques. Tibouchina said he usually used Kate Greenaway. Michael Benhayon has no business stroking young girls’ faces. Children are also brought on stage for entity insertions and removals. Because no one protests or questions, such unacceptable practices become normalized.
- Tibouchina, like our friend at the relationship workshop, had bad feelings about the events, but both felt they were the only ones with misgivings. It’s unlikely they were, but Benhayon’s confidence and easy manner while pushing personal boundaries, and the tacit approval of established followers causes those with doubts to second guess. Benhayon relies on this confidence trick. He doesn’t want doubters among his ranks. He seeks to retain those who will accept nonsense teachings and abusive practices and not only hand over money for them, but try to convince friends and families to join. Most doubters simply leave and never go back. Some, like Tibouchina, are left with enough lingering unease to take action.
Thank you to Tibouchina.
Singer, M. Thaler. Cults in our Midst, Jossey Bass, San Francisco, 2003.
The NSW Child Protection Helpline 132 111 is open 24 hours. Reports can be made anonymously.