My friend is living through something awful

  • Jan. 18th, 2012 at 4:23 AM
la_vie_noire: (Clare-killing)
Completely belated "South Asians for Justice" (SAJ) statement + my response.

The letter that SAJ send her is there. I'm just going to quote her words:

They coddled and protected a man who is ten years older than me, phd-track and from a highly class privileged background. The perpetrator is also jeering, spiteful and self-justifying about what he did to me, and tries to elicit pity and caretaking from women when talking about his current sexual violence ideations. All of this is transcripted through chats and emails. But unfortunately, Amita and co. were more concerned about preserving his access to organizational spaces.

I find the handwringing piece about state intervention ridiculous, since there has even never been any remote possibility of Saurav going to prison. The part that says that they don't want to be "punitive" ludicrously equates making safer spaces with the U.S. prison system. They demanded that he leave spaces ONLY if I am there. This is a man who has put in writing that he is a sexual predator. Apparently there are no minimum standards for participating in anti-oppression oriented spaces. Saurav perpetrated sexual violence against me after I experienced police violence. But I doubt anyone in these spaces would ask me to cry about the wounded psyches of the cops who harmed me.

They also left out that the "male ally" they used in this process told me my criticisms weren't worth engaging with and ditched the process. He was more dedicated to his friendship with the perpetrator than the process. Two months later, we finally are having a side accountability process to hold him accountable as well. Ridiculous. The accountability process group was itself not accountable.

It became evident through Saurav's own written admissions about his sexual violence and homicidal ideations via creepy emails to me, as well as information through others he harmed, that he has had an ongoing pattern of emotional and physical abusiveness and misogyny, despite his savvy utilization of feminist/social justice language and paid work on gender issues. He had also utilized his academic credentials and age to put me in my place; these were hierarchies that were being reinforced elsewhere in my life during my college years. He had also presented himself as a major source of support over the years, but opportunistically utilized multiple status differences and my vulnerabilities when I came to him for support last year during a time of crisis (which included trauma from recent gender-based stranger violence on the street). He repeatedly dodged responsibility over the course of the last year or so.


Due to the age gap, his peers/"friends" included my supervisors and professors, some of whom cofounded SAJ. I had outed him as an abuser to them by selecting "reply all" to a mass email he sent to to them and to me last year. Almost no one (including Aley, Svati, Linta) responded. One person, Thanu, outright dismissed my story as "gossip". Amita indeed sent out an email to those people early this year, trying to use her leverage as their peer, and only 3 of them responded. I don't think they're all particularly close to him, but I did feel uncomfortable sitting at the SAJ potluck with someone who I know used to hang out with the perpetrator (Linta), but basically silenced me before hand via email and told me to stop talking about it. I felt jarred when I first read the list of ten or so names behind the cofounding of SAJ and behind the mission statement, because of the incongruence between the language of the statement and the actual actions of those individuals. Many of those individuals are gender studies professors, anti-violence activists, etc.The SAJ mission statement includes language around gender justice and recognizing internal hierarchies around power/privilege, as well as the importance of recognizing the ways people are harmed by both interpersonal and state violence.

I find disgusting the ways the 30-something crowd who are peers of Saurav, well-established, paid to do anti-violence work, or teach race/gender/class issues as academics have responded. They do not speak for me.

So. This is a community that supposedly had to protect her. But privileged her abuser.


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