An Indian-American city official in Manhattan, Kansas,considering a U.S. Senate run as Democrat, has received wide acclaim for her exemplary courage after the 53-year-old woman revealed in a radio interview last month that she was raped as a child by her father in Ohio.
Usha Reddi, who was first elected to city commission in 2013 disclosed in an interview with News Radio KMAN,which featured “a personal story of the Mayor pro tem” on July 23 that she had been raped and sexually assaulted by her father Venkata Yeleti during her childhood and adolescence.
Yeleti, pleaded guilty in a Virginia court July 19 to raping his daughter Usha Reddi. He was convicted of the crimes which occurred between 1975 and 1977 in Virginia. Yeleti, 76,was sentenced to 10 years in prison for each of the two counts of rape but will serve just one year total as part of a plea agreement, according to news reports.
Reddi, who was first elected to city commission in 2013, is a teacher by profession. Sheserved as mayor in 2016 and 2017, and will be mayor again in 2020. A resident of Manhattan for more than 25 years, Reddi hopes to inspire victims of sexual abuse to come forward.
“Everything I’ve ever done in my life was to put this behind me and to move forward. People never thought of me as a victim of sorts in this instance, but that is the case. This happened to me between the ages of 10 and 16,” Reddi told KMAN in the interview.
Prompted by her own children’s insistence, Reddi sought justice, pursuing charges first in Ohio where she lived most of her life. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations had run out, causing Reddi to reach a dead end there.
Reddi provided investigators with recordings of phone calls between her and her father which was used as the evidence to convict. Yeleti reportedly admits on the tapes to raping his daughter in the calls, which were recorded about a decade ago.
Wanting justice to prevail, Reddi sought the help of Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson who said she could pursue charges in Virginia where the abuse began when she was just 10 years old.
That culminated in a plea deal reached with prosecutors and a public apology by her father where Reddi says he actually used the term “sexual assault,” in his apology something that hadn’t happened previously.
News reports said Wilkerson praised Reddi for her courage coming forward.“A lot of times these cases never see the light of day so my hats off to Usha in bringing this to light and empowering other victims.” Wilkerson was quoted as saying in KMAN’s local news Manhattan.
“Had this happened in Kansas when it did, we would not have been able to go forward, that has since changed. If this happens to somebody today, 30 years from now we’d be able to prosecute,” Wilkerson said.
The radio news noted that the National Center for Victims of Crime reports that one in every five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. Twenty-eight percent of youth aged 14-15 have been sexually victimized.
The reports said quoting Pawnee Mental Health Executive Director Robbin Cole that a 2003 study by the National Center for Victims of Crime found 3 out of 4 children in the U.S. who were victims of sexual assault were victimized by someone they knew well.
Reddi said in the interview as an adult now she has no feelings toward her father, saying she neither loves nor hates him as she has detached herself from the situation.
Most of her family came to learn of her experience only recently, while Reddi has lived with the scars for 43 years. According to her, it’s important that “as adults, we listen to children when they bring up concerns”, noting often they may not have the vocabulary to describe what happened or may be in fear of potential consequences.
“I had a fear when I had to come forward and say this. Everybody has to handle it in their own way, and it doesn’t always mean you have to press charges,” she told the interviewer. “It might mean just talking to yourself in the mirror, or hearing your voice saying , ‘you are never the blame and you are never alone, and you need to be strong.”
She admits that too often society places blame on the victim or the victim blames themselves, a stigma that needs to be removed. She says coming forward took a big burden off of her shoulders.