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January 29, 2020
Poorna Jagannathan
Indian Celebrities (F) Poorna Jagannathan

Actor Poorna Jaganathan, a survivor of child sexual abuse

Actor Poorna Jaganathan, a survivor of child sexual abuse, hopes industry peers don’t work with filmmakers accused of sexual misconduct

The #MeToo movement caused quite a stir last year with several women naming and shaming the perpetrators in public, including many from the showbiz. And actor Poorna Jaganathan, who is a coproducer of the acclaimed play Nirbhaya (inspired by the 2012 Delhi gang rape) and herself a survivor of child sexual abuse, says she’s in “awe” of how the movement emerged in India. “I don’t want to live in a world where there is violence against women… India’s #MeToo movement is one of the most powerful ones I’ve seen. I was talking to a friend the other day [on how] all the perpetrators are getting their jobs back. They are resurfacing; some even have the audacity to file lawsuits against their accusers…,” says Poorna.

The Indian-origin American actor made her Bollywood debut with Delhi Belly (2011), and has starred in American TV shows such as House of Cards, The Game, The Night Of and Big Little Lies.

Speaking on the movement, the 46-year-old adds that it’s “giving us a much-needed vocabulary.” She explains, “The efficacy of the movement cannot be judged on how many men we put behind bars or how many men never get their position of power back. It’s taking the shame off from the survivor and putting it back on the perpetrator, where it belongs.”

The actor also hopes that “actresses stand on their ground and not work with directors and producers who’ve been credibly accused of sexual violence”. However, what astonishes her is the momentum that this movement gathered. “Big ups to the women and men who have come forward and the media that has supported them (survivors). I’m in awe,” she adds.

Poorna has always been vocal about her stance on gender equality. On what gave her the courage to share about her abuse, and make it part of the theatrical piece, the actor says, “When I came forward with my story of being raped as a child, by my father’s friend — a respected officer from the Indian Air Force — a lot of things propelled me. But courage wasn’t on my mind. I had the strength and voices of my castmates, who told their stories of rape and genderbased violence on the stage, with me. And we all came forward because of the Delhi gang rape victim. It never felt brave to tell our stories, but it always felt vital.”

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