This is the first post in a series on the latest lawsuit against J. Micheal Shoemaker, AKA Swami Chetanananda.
By Ruth Graham
MEDFORD, OREGON – A federal lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Medford Division, has brought new allegations against J. Michael Shoemaker, also known as Swami Chetananda, and several associated individuals and entities.
Two women, identified as D.T. and G.M., have accused Shoemaker of various abuses, including sexual battery, trafficking, and emotional distress.
Shoemaker, the founder, director, and teacher of the Movement Center, is alleged to have groomed, sexually exploited, and trafficked both plaintiffs. The accusations detail incidents that transpired while the women were studying under Shoemaker’s guidance at the Movement Center in Portland, Oregon or L’Hermitage in Gold Beach, Oregon.
The complaint alleges Shoemaker’s “inner circle,” was complicit in the alleged exploitation and abuse.
Past lawsuits with similar allegations against Shoemaker have been settled, with significant payments to plaintiffs accompanied by non-disclosure agreements.
Among the alleged practices, Shoemaker is accused of manipulating female devotees with promises of spiritual healing and enlightenment, only to exploit them sexually and mentally.
D.T.’s allegations span from 2005 to 2011 at the Movement Center’s Portland location, asserting that she experienced grooming, assault, and exploitation. One specific incident from 2007 alleges Shoemaker choked D.T. without her consent, choked her, rendering her unconscious, and then committed sexual acts on her.
G.M.’s accusations are more recent, occurring between 2019 and 2021. She alleges Shoemaker sexually assaulted her multiple times during sessions branded “treatments” at the Movement Center and/or Hermitage.
Several other defendants, including Sharon Ward, Jen Wilhelm, Moni O’Neal, Dr. Andrew Bonner, and Dr. Rebecca Reese, are named in the lawsuit.
Both Dr. Bonner and Dr. Reese, who are physicians, and Ward, an attorney, are accused of using their professional titles to manipulate victims and provide a veneer of legitimacy to Shoemaker’s actions.
The lawsuit alleges that these professionals failed in their duties as mandated reporters, neglecting to report the alleged abuses to the appropriate authorities.
Legal Case Against Oregon-Based Movement Center and Affiliates Intensifies
The two main plaintiffs in the case, identified as D.T. and G.M., have detailed their experiences within the organization in the lawsuit.
D.T., now resides in Australia, and G.M., currently in Indiana, were both Oregon residents during the alleged incidents.
The case is currently represented by legal firms McAllister Olivarius and Dumas & Vaughn, LLC. The lead attorney is Carol Merchasin.
Shoemaker established the Nityananda Institute in 1971 in Bloomington, Indiana. In 1973, allegations suggest Shoemaker engaged in a pattern of grooming and abuse, including the rape of a student.
In 1978, allegations of cult-like behavior began to surface.
By 1982, Shoemaker relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, then he settled in Portland, Oregon, in 1993. The Portland location encompassed a 3-acre, 62,000 square-foot estate that housed up to 100 members.
In 2020, all members moved out of the Portland location, and the center relocated to Gold Beach, Oregon.
The Movement Center currently operates out of a large estate in Gold Beach, Oregon. Shoemaker leads private classes and retreats at this location, and the center previously conducted classes and retreats in California.
Shoemaker groomed and sexually assaulted other female members between 2005 and 2023. His pattern of abuse is described as coercing himself onto women without their consent, while using methods such as choking or smothering them.
More to come…