RIO DE JANEIRO – A celebrity faith healer, accused of sexual violence by hundreds of women throughout Brazil, was being sought by police Friday after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The U.S. Embassy in Brazil put out an alert telling people to contact Brazilian authorities if they had suffered abuse at the hands of Joao Teixeira de Faria.
The allegations against de Faria surfaced last week when several individuals appeared on a Globo Television show claiming that he had been sexually violent with them or relatives.
De Faria had worked as a faith healer for the last four decades in a small town in central Brazil under the name Joao de Deus. He became famous for conducting "psychic surgeries" that he said could cure diseases, including cancer.
Since the first allegations, more than 300 people have contacted authorities, and the accusers include de Faria's adult daughter, Dalva Teixeira.
In an interview published Friday by Brazilian magazine Veja, Teixeira said that under the pretense of mystical treatments he abused and raped her between the ages of 10 and 14. She said that he stopped raping her when she got pregnant by one of his employees. Teixeira said she was beaten so severely by her father that she suffered a miscarriage.
"My father is a monster," she said.
"In most sexual abuse cases, victims will come forward gradually as the investigation develops, but in this instance, we were flooded from the start," Luciano Miranda Meireles, one of the prosecutors assigned to a task force created to investigate de Faria, told The Associated Press.
Representatives for the law office representing de Faria said that they were not making statements on the case at the time.
De Faria attracted followers from around the world, all looking for spiritual guidance or cures for afflictions.
He gained international exposure in 2012, when Oprah Winfrey visited his retreat to interview him for her talk show. In a since-deleted column on oprah.com, Winfrey wrote that she was overwhelmed by the experience of seeing him cut into the breast of a woman without anesthesia and that she left feeling "an overwhelming sense of peace."
Many of the de Faria's accusers say they were molested while children. A court dismissed a 2010 suit involving an alleged sexual molestation of a 16-year-old girl by Faria after the defense argued that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the case.
The large number of cases against de Faria stands in stark contrast to a culture of relative impunity when it comes to sex abuse in Latin America's largest nation. A recent study using Health Ministry data estimated that more than half a million Brazilians are raped every year. Researchers found that only about 10 percent of cases are ever presented to authorities and 70 percent of victims are children.