A Bachelor Nation star had a reality check when she realized that the yoga school she joined was more like a cult—a sex cult.
Ashleigh Freckleton, a 28-year-old former contestant of the current ninth season of The Bachelor Australia, detailed her experience in an interview with Australian women's media group Mamamia, posted last week. The reality star, a speech pathologist, said that she joined a live-in yoga school in Romania, which she did not name, at the recommendation of a friend. Freckleton said that there, she was told to strip naked and was photographed and interviewed about her devotion to the group's guru.
She told the outlet, "Even though my body's telling me this is wrong, I'm shaming myself thinking, 'It's your ego. You need to spiritually evolve. You've got to push through, keep going.'"
Freckleton said female members were encouraged to be intimate with each other. She said there were viewings of mainstream pornography, a striptease event promoted as a female-empowerment activity and an orgy involving urine play—with claims that urine is "charged with spiritual energy." She said she refused to participate.
Freckleton also said she refused to participate in an initiation ritual that entailed sleeping with the group's guru in a house in Paris.
"I felt like I was losing touch with reality. It felt like [the guru's] claws were grabbing my brain and like pulling it out from underneath me. I had to write letters to myself in my diary and tell myself to stay lucid, because I was so afraid," she told Mamamia. "I was terrified of what brainwashed Ashleigh would do. I didn't trust that I would have the strength to say no to [the guru]. When you're sitting there in front of him, naked, how do you say no to someone of that level of authority, even though every part of your being is screaming at you that it's wrong?"
Freckleton said that after eight days, she negotiated her way out of the initiation and was expelled from the program. She later underwent therapy and was diagnosed with PTSD.
"It took months after coming home to Australia to really understand what had happened," she said. "I'm still learning to trust my intuition and my instincts again. But I've learned that I'm a lot more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for."
On Tuesday, Aug. 10, she wrote on Instagram, "So grateful for all of the support I've received in response to sharing my story of escaping an abusive cult (What a doozy, hey?) But honestly, your kindness doesn't go unnoticed. We can't erase the past or get rid of our scars, but we can find a way to make them meaningful. Sharing my truth and raising awareness brings meaning and purpose to the pain of my experience, because where we have suffered the most is where we have the opportunity to contribute the greatest."