#WeStandWithNeha: We Stand With Neha Rastogi: Statement and Call To Action
We Stand With Neha Rastogi: Statement and Call To Action
We are deeply saddened and dismayed at the failure of justice in People vs. Abhishek Gattani in Santa Clara County, California. Our organizations work with South Asian communities around the nation and many of us have been supporting and/or advocating for South Asian survivors of violence, abuse, trafficking, and trauma for decades in the United States.
We stand with Neha Rastogi who reported Gattani to the authorities in July 2016 after enduring ten years of verbal, physical and emotional abuse and violence, often perpetrated in front of their minor daughter. News reports about the legal process reveal that Gattani pleaded “no contest” to “felony accessory after the fact” (a nonviolent felony) and “misdemeanor offensive touching.” Gattani accepted a plea agreement offered by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, which would require him to serve a six-month sentence with only 30 days in jail and five months in a weekend work program, which includes a mandatory 52-week batterers intervention program course.
From Ms. Rastogi’s victim impact statement, it is clear that the legal process did not adequately center or reflect her concerns. The duration and violent extent of the trauma and abuse she and her daughter endured were minimized, as were earlier charges brought against Gattani. Ms. Rastogi’s own wishes in terms of the nature of the charges that should have been brought against Gattani were apparently ignored.
Ms. Rastogi’s own words, delivered to the court in her victim impact statement, describe the horrific abuse she experienced:
“I had been married to Abhishek Gattani for 10 years, and being battered by him for the entire duration. He hit me, multiple times during each incident on my face, arms, head, belly, pulled my hair and abused me and called me a bitch, whore, slut, bastard and much more in my language. . . He also started to threaten to kill me and when I expressed fear or feeling unsafe with him he called it “my self inflicted depression”.
Ms. Rastogi notes in her statement that she feels “wronged by the DA’s office and [the] court”, and that the charges in the plea agreement (Offensive Touching and Felony-Accessory After the Fact) do not reflect what actually occurred to her, which she believes should be a felony – battery with the intent to harm if not kill.
In arriving at the plea agreement, we are dismayed that the DA’s office apparently failed to meaningfully engage Ms. Rastogi in the process to hold Gattani accountable for his documented and repeated criminal actions. It appears that the DA’s office did not prioritize abuser accountability or Ms. Rastogi’s own wishes over the possible collateral consequences for Gattani. This is yet another example illustrating how the criminal justice system often fails survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Abuser accountability and survivor autonomy must be respected and centered in a trauma-informed manner by stakeholders seeing to effectively address the rampant issue of domestic violence in our country.
Sadly, what happened to Ms. Rastogi is not unusual. The Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (APIGBV) reports that 41 to 61 percent of Asian women experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime. And according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, between 2009 and 2011, while other types of homicides decreased, domestic violence fatalities in California increased by 11%.
Domestic violence is a learned behavior and must be addressed through a myriad of legal and non-legal community-based interventions. This includes culturally and linguistically accessible resources for adult and child survivor healing and empowerment, outreach and prevention programs, and clear societal messages that abuse is unacceptable and that no one deserves to be abused.
In her victim impact statement, Ms. Rastogi asks: “What’s the point of me speaking up now? I get heard to be ignored? To be told that the system understands the abuse and the impact it has had on our child and me but sorry it is what it is.”
Ms. Rastogi’s courage and choice to speak up matter to us.
As organizations and advocates working with South Asian survivors, we know the many steps that it takes to speak out. We honor the courage of Neha Rastogi for speaking her truth and telling her story publicly. In standing with Neha, we stand with all other survivors who are currently fighting to be heard and to live safe and full lives. We call upon the criminal and civil justice systems, community and faith-based organizations, employers, and public agencies to support the right to be free from violence in one’s home.
We must send a message that cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic status and high-level positions will not protect batterers and abusers. We must let survivors know that their experiences and voices matter, and that we will seek justice for and with them. And we must ensure that the autonomy of survivors, in terms of their choices and decisions, is the cornerstone for accountability of perpetrators.
The sentencing hearing for Gattani has been scheduled for May 18th. Here are three steps you can take now to stand with Neha Rastogi:
1. Contact the offices below to send the following message:
“I am deeply concerned with how Neha Rastogi’s case has been handled by the justice system in the case of People versus Gattani. I demand that her requests for abuser accountability be fully considered during every stage of the legal process.”
*Judge Danner’s court clerk: 650-462-3870
*Benjamin Rada, Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Public Information Officer: 408-882-2709
*Assistant District Attorney Steve Fein: 408-792-2658
2. If you are outraged by Ms. Rastogi’s experience, take the time to learn more about domestic violence, to speak up about its impact, and to advocate for more effective services, laws, resources, and protections that center survivors. Don’t allow victim blaming in your social circles, media, or social media, and be sure to respect Ms. Rastogi’s right to privacy and her autonomy to make decisions and choices that are best for her.
3. Generate conversations within South Asian communities, places of worship, and families that are trauma informed to talk about the scope and impact of emotional, verbal and physical abuse and violence, victim-blaming, and denial of a survivor’s experiences. If you don’t know how, please seek out a South Asian organization that works to end domestic violence locally or any organization that is working to end domestic violence in your community.
If you know someone or are currently being abused, please know you are not alone. There is help available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE to get connected to a program near you, or contact one of the organizations on the list below for resources and support.
Apna Ghar, Inc.
ASHA for Women
Domestic Harmony Foundation
SAATHI of Rochester
Sakhi for South Asian Women
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
South Asian Helpline and Referral Agency (SAHARA)
Sahara of South Florida
South Asian Network
South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA)