An Open Letter in Response to Aziz Ansari Sexual Assault Accusation

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A classic example of how women are still not being heard

Dear Readers, 

The Woman’s March is this weekend. If you are going, I urge you to think about all the rights that you are marching for- there is more to it than just birth control rights or education and work rights. From this example, its clear that women are still also having to fight for equal respect.

This post contains language that some might be uncomfortable with. As my regular readers know, Handmade Hearts is mental health blog, and talking about mental health requires maintaining as much clarity and honesty as is possible. Sometimes, that means talking about things like sexual assault in a very explicit way. 

I decided to write about this topic this week because I don’t think that sexual assault is something that is talked about openly enough. Everyday, women (and men, but mostly women) face sexual assault or sexual violence, and are too afraid of the consequences to speak out about it. The mental trauma that such an event can cause is unimaginable, which is why I wanted to take a minute to talk about it in this blog. 


 

The women’s march is this Saturday- in Seattle, at least. And so I wanted to take a moment to respond to something I read about last night.

Aziz Ansari, a prominent South Asian comedian, was accused of sexual assault by a woman who goes by “Grace”. I found a post about on my WordPress feed, while I was scrolling through and trying to find some other interesting blog posts. My initial reaction was shock- Aziz Ansari is known to be an advocate of Women’s Rights, and I have my own bias in favor of him since he’s South Asian- there still aren’t very many of us who have “made it” in Hollywood. I was sure that there had to be some sort of a mistake, but after reading through Grace’s account of what happened, I wasn’t so sure anymore.

According to her account of what happened, Grace gave Ansari several cues that she was not interested in having sex with him, including telling him to relax when he told her he was going to get a condom, pulling away when Ansari tried to get her to touch him, even telling him “next time” when he asked her if she wanted to have sex. If this wasn’t enough evidence that she didn’t want to have sex, after the first time he tried to initiate sex, she even told him that she didn’t want it to “feel forced”. She then thought that he would stop trying to make her have sex, but even after he  said they could  “just chill on the couch”, he kept going.

Several times, Grace told Ansari that she didn’t want to have sex, and several times, he kept trying. In his statement to her accusation, Ansari claims that he was surprised that upon “further reflection”, Grace knew she had felt uncomfortable, and all in all denies the allegation. He claimed that he would continue to support the Women’s Rights movement. In the texts that he sent her, he apologized that she had felt uncomfortable.

Here is what I don’t understand- if everything Grace claims to have happened is true- how on earth was it not clear to Ansari that she didn’t want to have sex?

Before I wrote this post, I read through other posts of people responding to the incident- Bari Weiss wrote in a post for the New York Times that Ansari clearly did not sexually assault Grace because her cues were “non-verbal” and Ansari is not a “mind-reader”. My response to that- you don’t have to be a mind-reader to be able to read the room. If Grace got upset to the point where Ansari felt the need to ask her if she was okay, and if she told him that she had felt “forced”- that’s a clear verbal signal that she was not ready to have sex with him- definitely one he doesn’t need to be a mind-reader for.

People make mistakes. On Ansari’s part, this was a big one. But what really makes me mad is that Ansari still is not fully admitting to it. There is no clearer way of saying that Ansari violated Grace, he didn’t just “make her feel uncomfortable”. 

During the Women’s March, people chant about women’s rights to birth control, to equal education and work opportunity, to equal pay; what about to equal respect? How about we emphasize that one for just a minute?

Respect, meaning that even if someone does not explicitly say “no”, when you ask her if she feels okay and she clearly tells you that she feels forced, you don’t respond to that by trying again?

If you’ve read my blog before, then you know that I’m big on forgiveness- I don’t think that Ansari is a bad person. But in order to earn forgiveness, you need to apologize first, and that apology for violating Grace is yet to come. 

There is strength in being vulnerable and admitting that you are wrong; it shows people that you are just another human who is still learning. I think that’s exactly what Ansari needs to realize here, and I really hope that he does.


It’s 2018. We are almost to the end of the second decade of this century and this millennium. 

We are still talking about the inequalities faced by women,

including inequalities in respect.

Think about that when you march this weekend. 

-Aarti


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