Several women have accused “tantra” teacher Andrew Barnes of rape, sexual assault and abuse. Most of the abuse victims report receiving multiple sessions free of charge. His long time teacher Shantam Nityama was recently outed for sexual abuse and running a cult. Barnes was a head teacher at ISTA (International School of Temple Arts) for some time. They parted ways over his stance on animal rights and ISTA eating animal heart during their trainings. Barnes apparently “would get furious” if anyone hurt an animal.
Andrew Barnes did not respond to my request for an interview.
Larissa Gray met Andrew Barnes at the European ISTA conference where he was teaching in 2010. She was with a tantric massage therapist friend who saw Andrew and remarked about how amazing he was. This gave her trust in him she said. While in another teachers workshop he started to perform energetic orgasm on her. And he offered her free session in his room at lunchtime.
Larissa did end up going to his room for a treatment. She started to really open up to him. At that time she didn’t know anything about protecting her boundaries or boundary work. She claims that he then raped her during the session.
“I was telling him all my fears about men and my past. I had been celibate for years in my healing process. He started doing the energetic work on me and the next thing I know he was penetrating me. He never asked consent. There was no verbal conversation. He just did it. I just froze. It lasted about five minutes and he did not use a condom. He then ran out of the room to go present about student/teacher sexual boundaries at the ISTA conference.”
She was conflicted about how to handle it. “I was in a difficult position. Everyone was looking up to this guy. I was a newbie to this world. I didn’t want to be pushed away out of the group.”
“This was a teacher, I thought I was safe. He took my light and destroyed it and he’s not having it anymore. I want it back!”
Larissa Gray is one of several women who are now speaking out about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Andrew Barnes.
A self-described “internationally acclaimed tantric teacher,” Barnes is the latest in a string of “tantric” healers to be accused of sexual abuse. His long time teacher Shantam Nityama was recently accused of sexual abuse and running a sex cult in an in depth expose.
Barne’s bio states that he has taught in 46 countries. He has offered his “Tantric Body Dearmouring” and full body orgasm workshops around the world. His business is called Awakening Within Foundation. It’s a non-governmental organization that allows him to operate tax free a source said. He was also a head teacher with the “International School of Temple Arts” (ISTA) for some time.
A similar pattern emerges out of the women’s stories who were interviewed. Three women allege Barnes raped them, two allege sexual assault and one claims he groomed her into having sex with him during sessions. One woman said she knows there have been several other women who have also been victimized by Barnes. Some of the women received multiple “tantric” sessions from Barnes and most all of them were free. Some women were groomed over the course of several sessions to slowly break down their boundaries. All of the women report a desire to heal, open or learn more about tantra. And they were trusting of Barnes. They believed that he had their best interest in mind.
Andrea Williams (not her real name) described a sensual healing session where Andrew Barnes raped her. Like other women, Andrea had several sessions with Andrew and he progressively groomed her.
Andrea first met Andrew at an annual retreat and had attended some of his workshops and been to some of his cuddle parties that he hosted outside of the event. It was after one of the retreats that Andrew offered her a 3-session package at a “very reduced price” she said. She took him up on the offer saying that she trusted him to know where to take her. It was during the third session that she said he raped her.
“I was in total orgasmic state. I hear this voice and he said “you need to ground. You need to come back into your body.” I couldn’t even talk, because I was so out of my body in an orgasmic state. I could hear him, what sounded like in the distance, saying ‘I don’t do this very often but sometimes it’s helpful to have the penis in the vagina.’ Next thing I knew was his penis was in my vagina. I didn’t have time to say yes, or no, let alone give consent. He put his penis inside of me for a few minutes. I never gave him consent. I was still off in orgasmic land. He then pulled out and left me to get dressed. No discussion about what happened, or how I felt after the session. I left felt very confused as to what had happened and only many years later realised the actual extent of what had happened and how he had totally manipulated me.
There are so many ways he could have grounded me back into my body. He could have got me down regulating my breath which grounds you, he could have put his hand on my belly to ground me. He most certainly didn’t need to put his penis in me without consent to do this. It was all to stroke his ego.”
Sophia Nielsen (not her real name) was a short time lover with Andrew. Although most sexual experiences happened with consent she explained that she once was met by a very different Andrew. “He was aggressive, his eyes looked different. He held me down and forcefully had sex with me against my will. I froze and was in shock.” The experience was non-consensual but she was too overwhelmed to know how to act she said. “He was my lover and I couldn’t believe he would actually do this.”
Andrew demonstrated a pattern of grooming with Victoria Holloway (not her real name) over the course of several sessions. She was young, only 20 at the time, and was very impressionable she said. She stayed with him for a month on the recommendation of a friend whom she told she needed a place. She had no idea who he was or what he taught. Barnes eventually asked her if she wanted a “discovery session.” In subsequent sessions she claimed he sexually assaulted her by performing oral sex on her without consent. They also did a “self-pleasuring ritual” together in his healing room during a “session.” Later they became sexual and lovers. Like the other women, all of her sessions were free.
“Andrew framed it as ‘I want to do a session with you’ and I said ok. It was a talking session. He just hit the nail on the head with my stuff, my trauma, my relationship to my dad and so on. He touched on my ultimate fears, fear of abandonment, betrayal, rejection. He literally blew my mind that he knew and how well he read me. It opened me a lot and made me hugely trust, I thought he was God.
The second session came a few days later. He was giving me a massage and doing some energy work. He may have asked if he could touch my yoni, I don’t remember. He did though. He then went down on me and I was very surprised as I did not know that was part of an ‘energy session’. He never asked my consent. I froze in my body completely. He then made me orgasm.
The next session he proposed that we do a self-pleasuring session together. We were both naked in his healing room masturbating. I don’t think he even had a reason, maybe a ‘ritual’. The whole thing lasted about 30 minutes and he ejaculated.”
“Is any of this tantra? I don’t think so” she said.
Victoria said Andrew would often be masturbating to porn in his room in the open with the door open.
Several months later he was in her town and came to her place to do a healing session with her. She said she was very “open and orgasmic.” She continues. “He was really going for it and I asked him if he would penetrate me and he did. He used a condom and ejaculated inside of me.”
Later, he paid for her to go to another country to attend his de-armouring workshop. She didn’t know what to expect. She describes what happened:
“He asked if I’d be the demo for the session. He was inside of me and fucking pounding me with his fingers. I’ve never felt so much pain. There was much pain and so much emotion. Very, very intense and very orgasmic. He was trying to make me ejaculate although I had no idea about this at the time. He did not make me ejaculate.”
While together at this time they were sleeping together frequently and had become lovers.
Faith Wright, a tantra teacher and former organizer for Andrew said she stopped hosting him for events after she received numerous complaints from women about him violating them sexually and crossing their boundaries during sessions. Wright said witnessing a disturbing incident in a training where he violated a woman without her consent also led to her stop working with him. “The woman was in a state of shock” she said.
She also witnessed highly controlling behavior towards his young girlfriend who was around 22 at the time. Andrew was in his late 40s. “The way I observed him treating her I just wanted to put her on a plane back home and get her away from him. I tried to insert myself to spend time with her and he was incredibly controlling of me spending time with her alone.”
Wright said she no longer promotes or recommends male tantra teachers because “every single one of them has complaints.” She said “my focus is healing, not further traumatization.”
Cathy Neff (not her real name) received around five sessions from Andrew — all free of charge as well. She believed the sessions would entail energy work and massage. She said he never told her he would do yoni massage. At the beginning of the session he told her “take all your clothes off and lay on the table.”
“He seemed like he was trying the energy work that he does. Light touching here and there. He never asked but he just started rubbing my yoni and gave me a yoni massage. I felt kind of frozen. I didn’t really expect that. I was really surprised and I was freaking out. My first reaction was I’m going against my relationship.”
She said that he said it was ok because it was how sexual therapists “all around the world” work. “He told me to be mindful of who I talk to about the sessions as others wouldn’t understand.”
In subsequent sessions Andrew had sex with her.
“One time he suggested sex in the session and I was like ‘no way.’ He never pressured me or forced me but he did suggest it again the next time. I really wanted to heal and be open and I thought if I do this extreme thing and massively cross my regular boundaries it will really open me. I thought maybe it is some kind of healing transmission that just opens a woman so much. It sounds so fucked up and crazy but I trusted that he had my best interest at heart and I thought if it’s for healing I can just do it and then I’ll be open.”
She said she had sex with him during two sessions and that there was “no healing transmission” and it “really wasn’t anything special.” She said it did not help her heal or open. “It was just a guy getting off.”
“I did end up feeling like I had gone against my relationship in the worst way possible and felt so much guilt and shame. Andrew recommended not to tell my partner, and this caused so much inner turmoil and conflict within my heart. I just wanted to heal and open but all of this was not helpful or necessary and in the end felt very damaging.”
Naomi Evans said that her experience receiving vaginal dearmouring work from Barnes was very violent and has left her with problems urinating years after. She was in “complete shut down mode” and the session was a “catastrophe” she said. Namoi said Andrew “forcefully hammers” and that it “very easily creates physical damage.” The pressure was a “9 out of 10” she said.
Naomi described how Andrew would participate in an exercise where men and women yelled at each other to release aggression. She said he would yell at a female student for 15-minutes and then be yelled at by the student. She said he would say “I need to have this possibility to participate because I have so much rage against women.” She said “many women felt very unsafe that he participated in his role as a teacher. He should have held space. Instead he would be very, very angry towards women.”
She said she witnessed Andrew being aggressive and yelling in a variety of situations.
At the beginning of workshops she said Andrew would tell the students “I am a grown up man. Everyone here is grown up. If I want to have sex with someone I can because everyone is grown up.” He would then say “agree?” and ask for people to raise their hands if they did. Naomi said she felt this was inappropriate given his role as an authority and teacher in the space. “He is very charismatic and very good with words” she said.
One of the women said something particularly poignant for our times. “Being a tantra teacher allows someone to get sex, fame and money without having much to offer.” It’s painfully true. Perhaps this is the heart of the matter. These men like Andrew Barnes were never in it for the tantra or the healing. They were in it for themselves. For the sex, the money, the power and the status. Tantra was their ruse to get their rocks off. But now the whole world is watching. #TimesUp #MeToo