Spiritual healer tells court he felt 'raped' by blog
By Sam McKeith
A FORMER Sydney tennis coach turned spiritual healer has told the NSW Supreme Court he felt "raped” by social media posts written by a former client.
Serge Benhayon, 54, is suing the acupuncturist and former client, Esther Rockett, for defamation over claims she made in the series of blog posts and tweets starting in 2014.
Mr Benhayon, the founder of Lismore-based Universal Medicine, contends the blog contained defamatory meanings, including that he was a sexual predator and the leader of a cult.
Ms Rockett has pleaded a range of defences, including truth and honest opinion.
In his second day giving evidence at the three-week trial, Mr Benhayon told the court he recalled being at his North Coast clinic in November 2014 when he first read Ms Rockett's blog.
"The level of intrusion went to another level, Ms Rockett had basically crossed every line,” Mr Benhayon said. "You feel you've been raped, you've been stripped.”
Under questioning from his barrister Kieran Smark, SC, Mr Benhayon conceded teaching a technique known as "esoteric breast massage” but said he only ever demonstrated it as a "simulation” over his wife Miranda's body while she was fully clothed.
"(I've) never seen it, never given it to anyone,” he said.
Asked by Mr Smark why he started proceedings against Ms Rockett, Mr Benhayon said he wanted to protect his reputation and create a more "fair and decent” society.
"This type of behaviour should not be allowed,” he said.
In cross-examination, Mr Benhayon insisted he could sense "discarnate spirits” in the courtroom, but said he could not see them and refused to count how many were present on Wednesday morning.
"I could if I wanted to but it's not something I'm allowed to do,” he said, adding that he could detect their presence "all the time”.
"There were some that were present when I walked in and particularly when you walked in,” Mr Benhayon told defence barrister, Tom Molomby, QC, at one point.
The court heard Mr Benhayon was declared bankrupt in 1995, before accumulating considerable assets since 1998 and reporting taxable income in 2016 of $188,231.
It heard companies linked to Mr Benhayon bought a building in Brisbane in 2010 for $1.75million and had paid $2.3million for a former industrial building that was subsequently converted into a venue for Universal Medicine lectures and meetings.
Corporate entities associated with Mr Benhayon also paid $500,000 for the Universal Medicine clinic and $525,000 for Unimed House on the North Coast, the court was told.
One of the companies, the court heard, had turnover of "several millions of dollars a year”.
"It's a good business (but) I wouldn't call it large,” Mr Benhayon said.
The hearing continues before Justice Julia Lonergan.