Abuse case: ‘staff asked to lie’
A former executive of Kenja Communications – the personal development group founded by Ken Dyers, who committed suicide last year while facing 22 charges of sexual assault against two girls – has claimed she was asked to lie when other abuse allegations were made against Dyers in the 1990s.
“I can’t say I ever saw him do anything,” a former director of a Kenja centre told the Herald after the screening of a documentary about Dyers at the Dendy Cinema in Newtown on Thursday night.
“I didn’t have any intimate knowledge of what was happening in the rooms but what they wanted us to do was to all say that the processing doors were open because that was their argument – that Ken wasn’t in the rooms on his own with the children – but he was.”
Dyers’s widow and Kenja co-founder, Jan Hamilton, said Dyers was cleared of those charges in court and last night she presented a “public lecture” entitled “Guilty until Proven Innocent: Jan Dyers and friends expose the facts about the attack on Ken Dyers, Kenja and your personal freedom”.
The $65 “lecture” is actually a play reading, which would make little sense if you were not well versed on the allegations against Dyers.
Ms Hamilton also said the film Beyond Our Ken was “a tabloid beat-up with serious omissions and that she and Dyers were not given the right of reply.
But the film culminates in a scene in which Dyers responds to a question by poring over a young girl’s body, explaining he needs to clear her of negative sexual energy. He then launches into a seven-minute tirade in which he accuses his persecutors of tactics used by Hitler, Mussolini, the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem witch hunt.
“I think it’s a very balanced film,” film-maker Luke Walker said. “I made sure Kenja always had their right of reply often to the detriment of the narrative.”
The film-makers interviewed Hamilton, psychologists and cult-busting Uniting Church minster David Millikan as well as happy and disgruntled Kenja participants including Cornelia Rau, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia after attending Kenja sessions and ended up in an immigration detention centre.
They also interviewed relatives of another four Kenja attendees who either committed suicide or went missing, presumed dead.
The film-makers set out to demonstrate how one ends up trapped in such an organisation, which has been labelled a cult.
The film says Kenja creates a non-threatening environment to teach their philosophy then isolates the participant from the outside world by filling their lives with expensive Kenja activities, leaving them with little time for sleep or engaging with the world outside Kenja.
But former participants say Kenja makes it difficult for you to leave the organisation, by suggesting people outside the organisation will not understand you, that you can’t survive in the outside world without Kenja’s support and if you do leave you will lose any contact with your only social network – Kenja participants.
Beyond Our Ken will screen in Brisbane on Tuesday and Canberra on Wednesday. It will also be screened in Melbourne on September 10 to coincide with its release on DVD.
Note: many news reports mention “Kenja Communications,” but the offical name of the business is Kenja Communication.
The following is a description of the Beyond Our Ken documentary, which is available via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
Beyond Our Ken
You wouldn’t know a cult if you joined one…
Throughout its 25 year history Kenja has frequently defended itself against claims, leveled by the families of attendees and the Australian media, that it is a secretive cult. There have been allegations of sexual abuse from former attendees and the much publicized story of Cornelia Rau has also been linked to Kenja.
In 2006 filmmakers Luke Walker & Melissa Maclean were granted unrestricted access to Kenja’s spiritual evolvement centre to record the daily activities and driving philosophy behind Kenja. Interviews with past and present attendees detail their experiences of the organisation and founders Ken and Jan candidly discuss their lives and motivations for establishing Kenja.
Beyond Our Ken is a compelling documentary exploring the anatomy and ambiguity of the ‘cult’ enigma which premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival in 2007 (taking the No. 3 spot in the Audience Awards) two weeks after controversial founder Ken Dyers took his own life amid allegations of sexual abuse at the organisation. It was also selected for Hot Docs in Toronto in 2008.
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