I have psychic abilities since childhood. I used to see dark human shapes. I had vivid dreams. And I have always searched for ways to understand these phenomena better and develop my spirituality. I had never heard of João de Deus (John of God) until 2013, when my grandmother invited me to come along with her to Abadiânia, to see him.
She wanted to heal some pains she felt in her right arm, the consequence of a previous injury. I was intrigued and decided to go. For me, it was an adventure, because I had been to some sessions of Umbanda [a Brazilian religion that mixes Spiritism, Catholicism, and African traditions] and knew a bit about spiritual entities and their relationship with mediums.
Once in Abadiânia, I was stunned to see how the whole village is about João de Deus. There are photos of him everywhere. People seem to be indoctrinated, and the place is full of foreigners.
Casa Dom Inácio de Loyola, where João de Deus holds his sessions, is lovely and surrounded by vegetation. Right at the entrance, there's a group of people singing and playing guitar. It's all very peaceful. The whole place seemed to emanate goodness.
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When I arrived, they led me to a sort of large balcony where the indoctrination starts. People pray and tell you that you'll feel better. That's how, little by little, they gnaw at your mind.
Then we get in line, and we pass by a corridor of people dressed in white, praying and silently meditating.
The vibe there is nice because everybody there is searching for the same thing: healing, hope, a message. So all the people there are in the same wavelength.
At the end of this “good vibration” corridor, you can see João de Deus, in a kind of pulpit, sitting down in a chair, supposedly incorporating a spiritual entity.
My grandmother went to him before me. She spoke about her arm. He barely looked at her. He scribbled a prescription for a passion flower remedy, sold at a pharmacy next door, and told her she would be all right.
When my turn came, he asked what I was doing there. I said that my psychic abilities caused me to suffer; that it did me both good and harm because I didn't know how to control it. The entity told me to go after "medium João" at the end of the session.
João de Deus holds private sessions in a small office in the middle of the house. When I got there, there were three other women there, waiting. And, inside the room, he kept yelling: "I'm tired! I'm not going to see anyone else! Send everybody away!"
His assistant went in our direction, clearly embarrassed, and apologized, saying that out treatments needed to be postponed. I thought that was weird.
That evening, I had an awful dream. João de Deus was all dressed in black, standing next to my bed, and sucked all my energy by placing his hands on my face. I could feel fluids leaving my body, but I couldn't move.
I woke up screaming and crying uncontrollably. My grandmother was startled. And me, a 24-year-old grown woman, asked her to sleep in her bed, something I have never done before.
We went back to the healing center the next morning. When I met João de Deus, I began my describing my dream. He said it was a regular thing, and that he was giving me energy, not sucking it away. And he began to tell me how special I was.
He asked me to sit on his chair, in the pulpit, until he arrived at the session, and keep my eyes closed. He told me to "command the space's energy."
From the look on his assistant's face, she thought that was as strange as I did, but she took me to the pulpit, walking like a robot. Many people from the corridor stared at me, astonished. I close my eyes and meditated mantras.
Back then, my self-esteem was low, and he had put me up there, planting the seed of this idea in my head that I was special and I could help people if I developed my spirituality.
When the session started, I got out of the chair, and João asked me to sit down next him to him. After it ended, I went to his office, where once more two or three women were waiting. Only women. The fact called my attention.
He addressed my grandmother, saying that I had a gift and I could work with him, doing good and helping people. My grandma was very proud.
He asked her: "Did you have lunch? No? So please go, while I talk some more with Aline." An aide took my grandmother away.
At this point, I was already very nervous. Having heard João de Deus yelling the day before made me think: "A spiritual leader shouldn't yell like that."
The aide came back and told the psychic that "that lady with the boy" was waiting.
A lady came in, dressed in a simple manner, bringing with her a boy, around 10-years-old, who had some intellectual impairment. She told "Seu João" that it was her third time in the center, but she saw no improvement in the boy.
João de Deus looked at me and told me: "Heal him." I said I didn't know how. And he replied: "Of course you do!"
I stared apologetically at the woman, stood up, and made some gestures that passed for a faith healing. I had no idea what I was doing. When I was done, João de Deus told the lady: "That's it, he'll improve now."
The whole situation made me uncomfortable. And it got worse. After the lady, the boy and the assistant left the room, João locked the door. He started to say: "Look, girl, you have a gift. You are very special. Did you see what you just did to that boy?" And I kept quiet.
"Now I will reenergize your chakras. Stand up!" the psychic told me. Then he started to touch me in the seven chakra areas (pelvis, navel, stomach, heart, throat, forehead and top of the head).
He said I had too much energy and needed to be realigned. Next, he quickly opened the bathroom there and put me there. He told me to turn my back to him, put my hands in my hips and move them. He said this was necessary to release the energy. It was all very bizarre.
In a situation like that, you feel cornered, and you don't know what to do. My body felt as if it was frozen, from head to toe. He kept saying, "move, move, " and I replied, "I don't want to, I can't."
João de Deus kept saying that "everything was all right" and started to rub against me, moving his hips. And he caught my hand and put it on his dick, behind. It was hanging out of pants, limp.
I pulled my hand back. João de Deus said that that's how it was it [the realignment] was, that part was important.
He tried again to put my hand on his penis. I reacted. "What's that? This is not right." I turned around. He went back to his office and sat on a couch. I sat on a different couch, frozen.
João opened the door and asked an aide if my grandmother had finished her lunch, and asked him to bring her back there. When my grandmother came back, he kept saying nice things about me. I started to feel bad. I excused myself and fled the place.
Outside of the healing center, I broke down crying. I felt confused and called my aunt, asking for help. Was I crazy? Should I have agreed?
She told me: "Get out of there right now, Aline! This man is crazy!"
Sadly, my grandmother didn't believe my story about how João de Deus took me to a bathroom and tried twice place my hand in his genitals. She said the psychic was a wonderful man, that he healed people, and I was confusing the facts.
I wanted to leave right away. It was unbearable to stay in a place where photos of him were plastered everywhere. I rebooked my flight to São Paulo the next day.
Meanwhile, at the bed and breakfast, I started my internet search. I didn't find any association of his name with terms like "fraud" or "sexual abuse," safe from a comment in a blog post. Then I decided to search for "John of God" and found plenty of stuff. I became afraid that he could go after me because I ran away from him.
I prayed all the way back. When I arrived home, I laid down on my mother's bed and spent three days in a fetal position, crying and unable to leave the house. It's the kind of thing that makes us think it's our fault. Should I have screamed? Made a scene?
Therapy saved me from a more significant trauma. I was able to free myself from the episode. Now I am entirely aware that he is a sick person, who receives his victims in this "take-out" of hope to be healed and search for spirituality.
I have no shame to talk about what happened to me. João de Deus is the one who should feel ashamed! Talking about it is the best way to release abused women from the guilt and the shame, besides avoiding that it happens again to other people.
Discovering stories like mine made me feel embraced. It was such a relief. And knowing that the stories are coming to light doesn't make me feel vindicated; it brings a feeling of done justice.
João de Deus press representative didn't pick up Folha's telephone calls nor replied to messages.
Translated by NATASHA MADOV