COSTA MESA, Calif. – A feisty Indian American 19-year-old, Shweta Ashokraj, stunned the audience at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts at the start of an audience Q&A with presidential candidate Andrew Yang on Sept. 8.
Yang had just stepped down from the stage at a Democratic Presidential Forum organized by Asian American activist groups, when the teen told him she had been raped, just two weeks ago, and wanted to know what his policies were on the matter.
The Occidental college student, majoring in diplomacy and world affairs and economics, was stark in her language when she raised the issue. Yang, looking startled, responded by speaking about sexual predators and hiring practices, then veered off onto the issues of school shootings and immigration, not really providing an answer to the young teenager.
Later, Ashokraj told India-West, “If I have put a politician in an uncomfortable position, I am satisfied.” Yang, she said, had not touched too much on social issues related to women. “Asians shame women for expressing their sexuality,” she added, indicating things had to change.
Ashokraj said she was also confronted in the bathroom after her question to the candidate by an “older Pakistani woman” who said she had robbed her of time from asking Yang a question. The Indian American youngster has also faced some backlash on Twitter.
Speaking slowly and carefully, she told India-West the date rape had happened on campus, during the day, despite telling the boy off twice. She said she reported it to Project Safe, an on-campus advocacy and support group, and also told two of her friends. She opened up to her parents only after she went public at the Costa Mesa event.
Asked what her next step was and what she wanted to happen to the boy who had assaulted her, Ashokraj said, “Honestly, what happens to him is separate from me. I am not looking for legal action, it’s too long drawn. I want to cope, I am in therapy, and I want to grow as an individual.”