This Domestic Abuse Survivor's Testimony Is So Powerful

by Samantha Mendoza
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A Silicon Valley CEO has pleaded "no contest" to allegedly physically abusing his 8-month pregnant wife. Although this was his second arrest for domestic violence, and cell phone video of the alleged abuse was submitted to the court, Abhishek Gattani will likely spend less than 30 days in jail. This is only the latest in a string of high-profile cases of alleged male abusers being given lenient sentences for violence against women. Gattani's wife, Neha Rastogi, gave a powerful testimony to the court about the domestic abuse she endured, revealing just how flawed the criminal justice system is when it comes to respecting the dignity of women and ensuring that the abuse does not happen again.

Rastogi, a former Apple engineer, allegedly suffered nearly a decade of physical abuse while married to Gattani. In May 2013, while packing for a trip to India with their 3-month old daughter, an argument about what to pack soon escalated into a physical altercation in which Gattani was reportedly seen by witnesses "pushing and pulling [Rastogi] along the sidewalk while punching her with a closed fist in the side and back multiple times." Although Gattani denied the allegations and claimed he never got violent, he was charged with felony assault, which was later reduced to a misdemeanor.

Then, in May 2016, Rastogi secretly recorded her husband allegedly physically and verbally abusing her. The five-and-a-half minute video clip captures Gattani speaking to Rastogi as if she were a child, calling her derogatory names, and claiming that she is to blame for the abuse he gives her.

"You don't want to get beaten up?" he can be heard asking her in the video. "Then control yourself."

Rastogi took the evidence to court and filed a lawsuit against her husband, who she has since separated from. Despite Gattani pleading "no contest," the charges were reduced from felony assault to felony accessory after the fact, with an additional misdemeanor of "offensive touching." Gattani's attorney, Michael Paez, said Gattani will not comment on the case or on Rastogi's claims against him.

"'Misdemeanor — offensive touching'?" Rastogi said in response. "I didn't even need to look this one up, as it made me laugh when then I realized that I was laughing at myself: I was the joke here."

The charges were reduced after prosecutors offered Gattani a plea deal that would allow the offender to serve only 30 days behind bars. If Gattani agrees to three years of probation, he will likely serve only half of that — and the felony will be expunged from his record.

What's worse, the decision was made before Rastogi was even given the opportunity to provide testimony about the abuse she endured. Her victim-impact statement was scheduled after a deal had been cut, and while the presiding judge was on vacation.

But Rastogi made sure her voice was still heard. In her statement, which she read in court last week, Rastogi criticized the criminal justice system for re-victimizing her, and condemned the fact that this type of leniency does little to prevent future abuse.

Between the prosecution and defense, I've been marginalized and honestly insulted. What I have suffered at Abhishek's hands has become insignificant in favor of considerations for Abhishek's job, immigration status. What about our child, what about me? We both experienced domestic violence from Abhishek, yet our voices cannot reach the authorities. The plea deal given to him is not punishment for his doings rather an encouragement for continuing his ways, with just one lesson to be learnt by him – to keep it under the covers next time and that he should silence the next victim and not just control her.

Rastogi's words reveal the problem with a criminal justice system that routinely gives a slap on the wrist to men who abuse women. In fact, the courthouse in Santa Clara, California, where Rastogi gave her testimony is the very courtroom in which Stanford student Brock Turner was infamously sentenced to only six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

This type of leniency cannot be tolerated. It is the duty of the criminal justice system to protect women, punish perpetrators, and establish a lawful society in which males are appropriately punished for abusing women. Giving slaps on the wrist sends the message that this type of abuse is ok, and that men can physically, verbally, and sexually abuse women without extensive damage to their lives or their careers. In a society in which 1 in every 3 women has been subjected to physical abuse by her partner, this is unacceptable and dangerous.

Rastogi's words send a powerful message to lawmakers and legal attorneys. When survivors of abuse are re-victimized by legal proceedings that diminish the violence and have more concern for the lives and well-being of perpetrators than for the safety and support of survivors, there is something very wrong.