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HuffPost Her Stories: Hundreds Of Women Accuse Celebrity Spiritual Healer Of Sex Crimes

Plus: Meet the black women breaking barriers in the exclusionary world of fine art.
João Teixeira de Faria (center), known as “João de Deus,” or John of God, is escorted by supporters
João Teixeira de Faria (center), known as “João de Deus,” or John of God, is escorted by supporters as he arrives at his “healing center” Abadiania, Brazil, on Dec. 12.

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Dear reader,

A celebrity spiritual “healer” with a global following was arrested in Brazil this week after hundreds of women filed reports accusing him of sexual abuse.

HuffPost Brazil’s Andréa Martinelli says the country has been in shock since the first accuser spoke up on TV earlier this month, triggering an avalanche of similar complaints. João Teixeira de Faria, known as John of God, “was a medium of prestige here in Brazil,” Andréa said. His devoted followers believed he had the power to heal through “spiritual surgeries” and felt betrayed and even defensive when women began accusing him of abusing them under the guise of treatment. Some people even protested in front of his spiritual retreat in solidarity with him, Andréa added.

What’s remarkable about this story, though, is how seriously the investigation is being taken and how quickly Faria was arrested — despite his reputation as a beloved and powerful figure. In a matter of days, more than 500 women filed complaints against Faria, leading authorities to arrest him Dec. 16 and charge him Dec. 20 with “sexual violation through fraud,” according to The Associated Press.

HuffPost Brazil decided to make this the focus of its coverage. “We have chosen, first of all, to emphasize the importance of women’s denunciations [against Faria],” Andréa said. “We know that specifically in Brazil, cases of sexual violence are underreported for a number of reasons — among them not only shame and fear, but also the fact that powerful men are involved.”

The swift investigation into Faria highlights how important it is for survivors to report their abusers and the collective power of women’s voices, Andrea said.

“I think this is the main nuance that this case brings: The voice of women strengthens the denunciations [against Faria] and provides a basis for a solid investigation against a man who, according to them, committed a series of violent acts in moments of fragility as they searched for connection with the divine.”

Until next time,

Emily

For more on John of God, readers of Portuguese can follow HuffPost Brazil’s @anabeatrizrr1 and @deamartinelli. All subscribers should stay tuned for more on the case as the investigation continues.

These Black Women Are Breaking Barriers In The Exclusionary World Of Fine Art

Earlier this year, ARTnews Magazine devoted an issue to the status of women in the art world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it revealed staggering gender gaps in the prices artists fetch at auction, as well as in opportunities to show and sell work. Black women have even less of a presence in the art world, representing just 4 percent of artists at leading U.S. fine art institutions, HuffPost U.S. reported. But one artist is aiming to change that. HuffPost U.S. spoke this week with Tiffany LaTrice, the founder of an Atlanta-based arts incubator, co-working and gallery space devoted to empowering black women artists. Tila Studios is already making an impact: It raised enough money this year to send 10 black women artists to Miami’s Art Basel, one of the largest commercial art fairs in the world. “I think it’s time to disrupt the traditional and kind of stale industry that hasn’t really seen a lot of shakeup,” LaTrice said. “So [we went] down there to kind of shake things up.”

Both HuffPost U.S. and HuffPost Canada reported this week on proposals that would make menstrual hygiene products available to more women who can’t afford them. The U.S. Senate passed a criminal justice reform bill on Tuesday that, among other things, would require federal prisons to provide quality pads and tampons to inmates for free. The going rate for a pair of tampons in U.S. prisons is $5.55(!) — beyond what most inmates can afford, HuffPost U.S. reported. Meanwhile, in Canada, two drugstores in downtown Toronto are preparing to offer free menstrual products to homeless and low-income women. “Until 2015, Canada treated menstrual products as taxable ‘luxury items,’” the article notes. Both articles discuss the shame women suffer when they’re unable to access something so many women take for granted and raise important questions about basic human rights and dignity.

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