This article originally appeared on VICE US
Nine women have come forward accusing self-help guru Tony Robbins of sexual misconduct, including four who spoke out after a massive BuzzFeed News investigation that chronicles decades of alleged sexual misconduct.
Three of the four who spoke out in recent days were former followers; the fourth was one of Robbins’ personal assistants. All are accusing him of either exposing himself in front of them, making unwanted sexual advances, or groping them, BuzzFeed News reports. Some of the alleged incidents even happened in public, at his seminars.
Robbins and his lawyers have been quick to deny every allegation made against him. Several women who spoke to BuzzFeed News for their initial investigation, published Friday, asked to remain anonymous, fearing Robbins’ retribution.
But in the wake of the report’s publication, four women have come forward, agreeing to speak on the record about their experiences.
One woman, a former assistant to Robbins, accused him of walking in on her in the shower and dropping his towel. Another woman has accused Robbins of taking her hand and putting it on his penis at an event.
Robbins, since the 1970s, has been a big name in the self-help world, publishing numerous books, hosting seminars around the world, and running late-night infomercials to plug it all. On his website, he claims to have “empowered more than 50 million people from 100 countries” through his self-help products. He’s also amassed millions along the way: The most expensive “membership program” he sells costs $85,000 a year.
Robbins’ followers often find him in moments of desperation, gravitating toward his promises to help them overcome pain. He has long used what he considers to be unconventional self-help techniques. To advocates of sexual assault victims, those techniques look a lot like abuse.
In a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, Robbins dismissed the accusations, justifying his actions as all part of his methods as an eccentric self-help icon. “If you don’t know me, I gotta warn you: My techniques are outside the box,” he said. “I’ll be crazy, I’ll be weird, I’ll be gross, I’ll be funny. I’ll be anything to serve, anything but hurt the person.”
“I’m not perfect, I’ve never claimed to be,” he said. “If there’s anything I’ve ever said or ever done that sincerely even offended anybody, hurt anybody’s feelings, anything of that nature, I just didn’t support you, I apologize.”
He also accused BuzzFeed News of “flat-out lying” to some of the women quoted in their story.
One accuser, Kimberly Stokes, started working for Robbins in 1998 as a live-in assistant to him and his then-wife. She pawned off her family’s jewelry in order to make it to one of Robbins’ events, she told BuzzFeed News. After rebuffing one of his advances — he took her on a helicopter ride and kissed her briefly, she said — Robbins walked in on Stokes while she was showering and dropped his towel.
“I was furious, because it broke trust,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I don’t bullshit. If I said no, I meant no.”
Sophiah Koikas went to one of Robbins’ seminars in Hawaii in the 1990s. As he was shaking hands with his supporters, he took her hand and put it on his crotch. During the seminar itself — during a firewalk, in which Robbins’ followers walk over hot coals — she said, “He cupped my whole left breast, grabbed it, and then shook it.” She got a note from one of his bodyguards saying “Tony thinks you’re cute” and asking if she wanted to get to know him better.
Mary Lantz’s then-boyfriend bought her tickets for one of Robbins’ events around 1990 because she was having a tough time, according to BuzzFeed News. She said that Robbins asked, “Will you come sit in the front row of my seminar every time? Because you’re driving me crazy.” He pulled her on stage and hugged her, wrapping his arms all the way around her torso so that he was cupping the side of her breast — all in front of an audience of thousands of people.
“I felt like it was sexual harassment,” Lantz told BuzzFeed News. “We didn’t have that word back then, but I felt he was hitting on me.”
Lucie Galvez was at another of Robbins’ events where he put out a call to the audience. Is anyone here interested in a job as his personal assistant? he asked. There were a number of women in the audience who wanted the job, Galvez said, including her.
She turned up for an interview with Robbins, which, she told BuzzFeed News, took a turn. “I remember him asking me, ‘How do you feel about nudity?’” She would be working so closely with Robbins that there was a good chance that Galvez might see Robbins and his partner naked.
“Absolutely it was a sexually inappropriate interview. It was almost predatory,” Galvez said, according to BuzzFeed News.
Robbins’ sexually inappropriate behavior went further: He berated victims of sexual assault during the seminars he led.
Some of the women who were on the receiving end of these rants still have a complicated relationship with Robbins and his teachings. Many still think he saves people, and ultimately feel that he helped them in some way.
Robbins and his lawyers have vehemently denied all of the women's claims.
Cover: Tony Robbins, motivational speaker, personal finance instructor, and self-help author, is interviewed by host Anthony Scaramucci and Maria Bartiromo during the taping of "Wall Street Week," on the Fox Business Network, in New York, Thursday, March 17, 2016. The original "Wall Street Week" aired on PBS for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)