Manhattan City Commissioner Usha Reddi is hoping to inspire victims of sexual abuse to come forward.
Reddi, who is now 53, shared a very personal story of the abuse she sustained as a youth at the hands of her own father, Venkata Yeleti during an exclusive interview on KMAN’s In Focus Monday. Yeleti was convicted Friday for the crimes which occurred between 1975 and 1977 in Virginia.
“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 Monday on In Focus.
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.
Still 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. 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. 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 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. Pawnee Mental Health Executive Director Robbin Cole says a 2003 study by the National Center for Victims of Crime found 3 out 4 children in the U.S. who were victims of sexual assault were victimized by someone they knew well.
“That’s part of what makes this so terribly confusing for a child, when someone who you know, trust and love, hurts you in this kind of way, it’s just hard to imagine how this could even be.
Reddi says as an adult now she has no feelings toward her father saying she neither loves or 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. Reddi says 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 said. “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.
If you suspect sexual abuse or want to talk to someone about coming forward, Wilkerson says they have resources at the Riley County Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.
“We can be called, we can direct people to resources. Some people don’t want to go forward and Kansas law also allows for anonymous reporting. We can talk to you, it’s confidential and if we feel you need to go to the police department, we’ll send you there,” Wilkerson said.
A link to Monday’s full interview on In Focus can be found here: In Focus 7/22/19