Penn State senior Shreyash Manak Bohara grew up in Jaipur, a city in northwest India, which is where he developed his belief that life as a female is more difficult than a male because of the struggles he saw his mother live through.
Growing up in that milieu contributed to Manak Bohara living his life as a self-identified feminist with a desire to work on the issue of gender inequality.
Manak Bohara was one of 14 speakers at the eighth annual TEDxPSU talks at Schwab Auditorium on Sunday. The talks were centered around the theme of Face to Face, which aimed to connect listeners with the world around them despite bias, barriers and differences. This year’s set of speakers provoked listeners to challenge their own beliefs and open themselves to other perspectives.
Speakers covered diverse topics, including how immigrants shape(d) the United States, mental health conversations in the media, trusting children, building authentic relationships and diversity in video games.
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Manak Bohara used his time to speak about breaking the cycle of sexual abuse, which he said involves more than the physical, criminal abuse.
He spoke about a conversation with his mother that centered around what it is like to be a woman, which came before a lighthearted moment where he told her he thought he would look pretty with long hair.
“But then my mom said, ‘Being a woman, you have to decided that either you subscribe to these societal norms or you break them,’ ” Manak Bohara said.
Manak Bohara said one thing he did not like while growing up in India was that women were treated as property of men and seen as objects. Upon his arrival in the United States in June 2014, Manak Bohara said he discovered that 1 in 5 undergraduate women and 1 in 13 undergraduate men would be sexually assaulted in their college career, with 92 percent of those crimes committed by men.
The cycle, he said, starts with a poor culture surrounding sexual abuse, which leads to additional abuse that eventually feeds the stigma around it, which completes the circle to feed the cultural issues.
Manak Bohara then spoke about the importance of bystander intervention, which is when someone interrupts a potentially harmful situation by intervening, whether it be direct or indirect communication.
“I know it is easy to say and hard to do. Sometimes I go blank whenever I see something like this,” Manak Bohara said. “So I came up with this method, called the ‘Nice pants’ method. What I do whenever I see something like that, I go up to them and I tell them ‘I love your pants. Can I get them?’ It’s a simple way to have a conversation and maybe stop a rape.”
Manak Bohara also encouraged attendees to check their own perspectives as to make sure that they are not victim-blaming. He presented an example of framing the discussion, which can influence thoughts and opinions about an incident.
“If a story is told from a victim standpoint, people are more likely to blame the victim. For example, ‘Kathy was raped by Justin.’ In this case, people blame Kathy for it. If the story is told from the criminal standpoint, people are more likely to blame the criminal. An example would be, ‘Justin raped Kathy.’ At this point, people are more likely to blame Justin for it,” Manak Bohara said.
He concluded his speech by providing listeners with three key points to remember.
“If you see something wrong, ask them about their pants. Second thing, check on yourself to see if you’re victim-blaming and tell the story from the criminal standpoint. Third point, ask each other questions,” Manak Bohara said.
He has also created a website where sexual assault survivors can speak with someone for free in real-time without having to use their name or any personal identification, which can be accessed at safespaceforme.org.