Sadhana Sisters Speak Out on Kavanaugh Confirmation

On Saturday October 6th, the US Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, a man accused of sexual assault by several women, to the US Supreme Court. A few Sadhana sisters share their views on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh:

TRIGGER WARNING:These testimonies contains information about child abuse, sexual assault, and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors. The National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached by calling 800.656.HOPE (4673). You will be routed to a local sexual assault service provider in your area.

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The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh is a devastating and heartbreaking moment for me and any woman who has ever experienced or is experiencing sexual assault. This nation is not only telling victims of abuse that we do not believe them; we are also telling their attackers that they can commit these heinous crimes and suffer no consequences. Forget consequences, they can become a justice of the Supreme Court, or even President of the United States!

With Navratri, a festival glorifying the Divine Feminine, around the corner, it is unbelievable that a man accused of violence against women has just been placed in such a position of power. In the Devi Mahatmyam, the Mother Goddess takes the form of Durga to destroy the demons plaguing humanity. The demon brothers, Shumbh and Nishumbh, lust after the Goddess. After She rejects their advances, they try to forcefully take Her due to arrogance and pride. The Goddess defeated them and saved the innocents they were terrorizing. The actions of these evil beings are eerily similar to those of Kavanaugh, who is accused of forcing himself on women who clearly did not consent to his actions. Dr. Ford said she was 100% sure it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her, and while this isn’t proof, shouldn't we have enough doubt to refrain from adding him the the Supreme Court of this land? We hope that the Goddess will bring offenders like him to justice once again, and bring salvation to their victims.

All Americans should be outraged that Brett Kavanaugh was appointed by a President who is an accused repeat sexual offender, and a man who has voted that we restrict and rollback protections and accessibility to abortion. Our government is poised to repeal the rights granted to us in Roe v. Wade. We must follow the footsteps of women activists before us who ensured our bodily autonomy and gave us control of our reproductive health. We must honor their fight by fighting to keep those freedoms. We must take the streets in protest! We must call our representatives! We must show up at the voting booths! We must take action!

—Davanie Singhroy, Queens, NY
Davanie is a board member of Sadhana.

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Dr. Ford described the laughs of her attackers to be her most vivid memory of the attack because it dehumanized her and made her feel powerless. My grandfather’s calm and gentle smile as he walked me to a bathroom in our home in India, stripped naked and described what he wanted me to do to him as though it was a normal and justified demand is my most vivid childhood memory because it made me numb with confusion.

As a 6-year-old Indian girl, the first thing I had learned in my life was to obey my elders. But thankfully I did not give in to his demands and managed to run away without being touched. I vividly remember feeling deeply distressed, powerless and confused as I ran out of the bathroom that day.

Ten years later, at 16, I felt the same distress, powerlessness and confusion when I decided to speak out against my molester, for the sake of my sisters.

Today, I feel the same kind of distress, powerlessness and confusion as I watch a sexual predator be put in charge of justice for millions despite their desperate cries and efforts.

As Dr. Ford was being shamefully questioned by a ‘prosecutor,’ I was taken back to when I was 13 and my mother asked me if I was sure that these assaults had taken place; if I could have dreamt it all up. (To be absolutely clear, there were multiple instances of sexual assault of various degrees from the age of 6 to 13.)

As survivors came forward, one after another, in Dr. Ford’s support, I was reminded of when I was 16 and I had found out that I was my grandfather’s fourth victim. That there had been a whole generation of women in my family that had been assaulted before me. I was reminded of my pledge to end this tradition with me, to not let it reach my young sisters and brothers. Today, this is the pledge of millions of survivors and of decent people of all genders across America and the world.

As I watched Republicans disgracefully discredit Dr. Ford to protect a white male chauvinism that Kavanaugh would reinforce, I was brought back to the dozens of times members of my family tried to silence me in order to protect the eldest male in the family: my molester.

“Hinduism is the only religion with Goddesses,” my father used to tell me. As a little girl, I was empowered by the possibility of a female ‘God.’

At 16, when I found myself all alone against my molester and his family, I called my father. I called him because I thought he would support me in my fight. Instead he said that my grandfather had turned into a molester because he had not prayed to the Goddesses. He suggested that I let it go and hope that my molester starts praying more. Let down by my father and terrified as I stood alone, I fought my fight by myself. My fight for girls and women across the world is itself a prayer to the Goddesses. Yes, my fight is my prayer.

Vagisha Agrawal, Calgary, Canada
Vagisha is an active member of Sadhana.

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It’s hard to even put into words the devastating consequence of confirming Brett Kavanagh as Supreme Court Justice. All the work our foremothers and sisters have fought for is placed at risk by this decision. To have a man who not only hold extreme conservative views, but who himself has a history of perpetrating gender-based violence is almost too much to bear.

In spite of the feelings of devastation and fear, I’m reminded of the fact that we’ll begin celebrating Navaratri on Tuesday. It feels significant that we’ll be praying and meditating on the divine feminine during this time.

Durga may you give us the power to fight injustice. Lakshmi may you give us an abundance of strength. Saraswati may you give us wisdom and creativity. With this we will start anew and fight for those who have no voice.

Helen Erwin, NY
Helen is an active member of Sadhana.

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All day Saturday, while the Senate was voting to appoint Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, my Sadhana sister Pratima Doobay and I were facilitating a workshop on Hinduism and social justice at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in NYC. We told the story of Sadhana, and our efforts to inspire and mobilize Hindus to connect their faith to the social justice crises of our times.

Pratima, being a priestess in training and a trained singer, led the group in powerful puja (Hindu worship ritual in which we prayed to Prithvi Maa (Mother Earth), Lord Ganesh, and the Goddess Durga), havan (fire ritual: we each offered into the fire our affirmations and also the negative feelings and thoughts that encumber us), and kirtan (chanting and singing together).  Participants were moved to tears. Some said they were speaking up in the group for the first time. A few spoke about the sexual assault they had suffered. One man said that during kirtan he felt so grounded in the notion of mother that he felt cradled in her arms.

Pratima shared a story from our scriptures: Mahishasura, a tyrannical asura (demon), had done great penance. Lord Brahma granted him the boon that he could never be killed by man or God.  Considering himself immortal, Mahishasura began to destroy the earth and all living forms. Maa Durga, being neither man nor God, being the Goddess who embodies the cosmic energy of this universe--being a woman--was the one who killed Mahishasura and brought peace the to the earth.

When the workshop was over and I left the building, I looked at my phone and sure enough, there were the inevitable news alerts. I walked on knowing that the workshop with Pratima and the One Spirit community was the best thing I could have been doing on this particular day.

We are about to enter a favorite festival for Hindus the world over: Navratri, nine days and nights when we celebrate Maa Durga in her nine powerful forms. I know that we will sing and dance and feast, but I will focus my own prayers on the terror of sexual assault and abuse that pervades our families and communities. I invite my brothers and sisters to join me in invoking Maa Durga to fight this evil just as she saved the earth from Mahishasura. We must ignite this shakti (power) within each of us.

Swagatham (Welcome) Maa Durga
Jaago (Awaken) Maa Durga
Aao (Come) Maa Durga

Jai Mata Di (Victory to the Mother Goddess)

Sunita Viswanath, Brooklyn, NY
Sunita is a cofounder and board member of Sadhana.

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I was raised on stories of Draupadi and Shikhandi - a deliberate choice by a mom who was determined to show me that Hinduism isn’t just one set of stories which demand that women, above all, be quiet. Sita, therefore, was often a second choice on the bedtime story circuit. Among other things, she wasn’t wild about the women who supported the status quo - the Kaikeyis and the Mantharas and the Soorphanakas and the unnamed laundresses, without whom the gossip and the narrative does not continue to support the kings and their ways.

But right now, I can’t help thinking we’re all spectators at Sita’s second agnipariksha. It’s the one that people tend to conveniently forget because it happens well after the happily-ever-after that we celebrate every Diwali. It's the somewhat inconvenient part of the happy reunion of Rama with his twin sons, Luva and Kusha. The one where Sita decides she’s done.

Years after already being cast out — because apparently a god king isn’t grown-up enough to simply ignore idle gossip after the first trial — and raising twins as a single parent out in the sticks, Rama asks Sita to prove her chastity. Uh-gain. Furious, Sita refuses to oblige. She shames Rama and decides she is going home. Her Mother Earth absorbs her back into the ground and safety, leaving behind a miserable forever after King Rama.

It’s the one part of Sita’s story that my mom told me, a lot. When the world is constantly telling you to be nice and behave, it is a deeply satisfying story.

Because all the Sitas are also fresh out of fucks, and we want a lot more than a safe space away from sorry kings. We want an end to the slut-shaming. We want the justice system, in its required adherence to evidence to stop policing and punishing women more than it ever upbraids or holds men accountable. We are half the earth and we are NOT writing an end to our part in the narrative. No, we Sitas are past done being quiet, and nice. And for those of you who haven’t paid attention, we have the ballot. If you thought we were mad before, you’re in for some hell of a shock.

Anonymous, VA
Anonymous is a new member of Sadhana.