She cheated; I lost my temper; it wasn’t that bad; and I’m the victim: Ousted RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh “G” Chahal’s classic defense of his attack on Juliet Kakish.
It’s always the same story. Only the players are different. This time, it’s Gurbaksh “G” Chahal’s brutal assault of his girlfriend, Juliet Kakish which is all over the news again, now that he worked out a plea deal reducing 45 felony counts based on 117 alleged acts of violence to two misdemeanor charges that got him off with probation and a $500 fine. RadiumOne acted swiftly to fire Chahal, though he still retains a large stake in the company.
One can approach this sordid story from many angles:
The standards of personal conduct we demand from our business leaders.
The power of information and its rapid spread to topple the powerful.
The irony of a man’s security cameras being used to document him hitting his girlfriend 117 times and threatening to end her life, and the further irony of that evidence being thrown out for unlawful seizure.
The refusal of an intimate partner violence victim to cooperate with law enforcement to ensure full prosecution.
The way we depose leaders who commit crimes but let them walk away with their money.
But for me, the most instructive part is Chahal’s published defense of his actions, which appears in Kara Swisher’s re/code article and is included below in its entirety. I encourage you to read it carefully, as I did, to tease out the irrationality and inconsistencies. Chahal’s argument follows the predictable reframing pattern of every abuser who justifies abuse, and in decoding that pattern, I hope to help abuse survivors recognize what’s happening, shift their perspective, and empower them to change their lives.
Can You Handle the Truth?
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Right now there are many people calling for my head. I am the recipient of death threats and hateful language aimed not just at what I was accused of, but attacking me for my ethnicity, my social class, and even my gender. Many would gladly lynch me based because of my origin — and not the facts of my case.
I know that I cannot change the minds of those who choose to hate me without cause — and base their hate only on the misrepresentations they have read, but I hope that others will be open minded and give me the opportunity to tell my story and paint a broader and very different picture.
Before I begin, I want to make it abundantly clear that I abhor violence of any kind, most especially against women. I created a foundation to fight hate crimes. I consider intimate partner violence and domestic violence in that same category.
I was charged with 45 felony counts of domestic violence. All of those charges were dropped, and ultimately the case settled when the DA’s office recognized they had no case and offered me a misdemeanor plea. I accepted that plea, because after a lot of soul searching I believed I was acting in the best interest of my company, my employees, my customers, my family, my friends and my investors.
I fully understand the outrage of those who believe I got off “lightly” as asserted by numerous postings on social media sites. But the $500 fine I agreed to pay, the equivalent of a speeding ticket, is simply what those misdemeanors require, and in no way reflects the toll that this ordeal has exacted on me. There can be no dollar value placed on the pain and suffering I have caused my family and friends, my employees and customers my investors, and everyone else who has looked up to me in the past. The humiliation and shame I feel is immeasurable. The dollar cost to my business and my reputation is incalculable.
I could have spent another year fighting the charges against me, which I truly wanted to do for my family’s sake. I would have prevailed in this fight because the allegations by police against me were overblown and grossly exaggerated. They made good press, but quite literally, they did not hold up in court.
I want you to know that this is not an excuse. I know that intimate partner violence is never excusable under any circumstances. I recognize that my temper got the better of me, and I will regret that for the rest of my life. But there is a difference between temper and domestic violence, and the truth of what actually happened is no where close to what the police claimed nor anywhere near what the online chatter and pundits are now making it out to be. I have two sisters, a niece and a mother. I love them all to death, and would never want any harm to ever come their way.
The situation that resulted in my legal case began when I discovered that my girlfriend was having unprotected sex for money with other people. (She testified to this in her interviews with the cops.) I make no excuse for losing my temper. When I discovered this fact and confronted my girlfriend, we had a normal argument. She called 9-11 after I told her I was going to contact her father regarding her activities. And yes, I lost my temper. I understand, accept full responsibility and sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart for that. But I didn’t hit her 117 times, injure her, or cause any trauma as the UCSF medical reports clearly document. This was all overblown drama because it generates huge volumes of page views for the media given what I have accomplished in the valley.
The tape in question that was thrown was also bullshit. If anything, it actually made the SFPD look bad because they violently assaulted me as I opened my door despite my being fully cooperative.
The girl in question here, was herself so appalled by the false allegations made by the police, that she agreed to be photographed to demonstrate that there were no bruises or injuries. She could have left my apartment at any time during the argument. She felt safe and chose to stay. Those pictures she agreed to take would have been entered into evidence had my case proceeded, and they would have proven that the police claims were egregiously misleading.
Celebrities in sports, entertainment and business, and high net worth individuals in general are all potential targets. It was only a matter of time when I would fall prey.
I have to accept that many will still want to hate me no matter what I say to bring clarity to my legal case which is now over. But the fact of the matter is that they are jumping to conclusions based on falsified allegations. My case could not have settled in the way that it did if the allegations were true. Trust me, the DA’s were like a pack of rabid dogs coming after me. If they had a case, they would have stuck with it.
I only hope for two things: first that people who I work so hard to inspire are not discouraged by the false allegations and blogosphere spins, and, secondly, I hope others who are not in my shoes — and who have jumped on the bandwagon of criticism against me after the conclusion of my legal proceedings — will be open minded and give me the opportunity to tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I apologize to my family, my friends, employees, my customers and my investors all who have suffered from this bad publicity related to my personal matter. I have learned a lot from this experience, and I will continue to grow. As CEO of RadiumOne, I vow to make it a hugely successful company, a great place to work, and a wonderful partner in the community.
I’ve always wanted the best for others. I have been a tireless fighter against hate crimes through my Foundation, and a huge supporter of education through my scholarship funds. What I am proudest of in my success thus far in life is that I have created jobs and opportunities for people, while building commerce and strengthening our community. Actions speak louder than words, and it is these actions, not the false allegations and spins that you might have read through these various blogs shine light on my real character, on the person I truly am and always want to be.
What is the American Dream? That you can come from nothing and make something of yourself not once, not twice but three times, only to have all of it come crashing down from misinformation, that is spun wildly out of control into the world of make believe and then goes viral into the blogosphere. We need to hold on to the American Dream, and reject those who would rather make it a nightmare.
Our Founding Fathers believed in the dream, why not the bloggers.
Every defense of abuse is startlingly similar. They all employ four arguments to frame the incident in the abuser’s favor, absolve him of responsibility, make it seem reasonable, and transfer blame to the victim. These are: 1) the justifying event; 2) the justifiable reaction; 3) the minimizing of the damage; and 4) the unjustified persecution of the abuser. Caveat: I have used he and she here for clarity to refer respectively to the abuser (Chahal) and the abuse victim (Kakish), but this is in no way meant to suggest that abusers are typically male and victims are typically female.
1. The justifying event. Chahal explains that Kakish was cheating on him. “The situation that resulted in my legal case began when I discovered that my girlfriend was having unprotected sex for money with other people. (She testified to this in her interviews with the cops.)” His claim is that she not only cheated on him, but also put him at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, had sex for money, and admitted it. Naturally, he was upset; wouldn’t you be? The use of the justifying event masks the real cause of abuse, which is the abuser’s inability to control rage and violence in the face of upset. The situation that resulted in his legal case did not begin with his discovery of his girlfriend’s infidelity. It began when he chose to start beating her after that discovery. And there is no exploration of Kakish’s own situation, of whatever may have led her into the arms of other men for money. Clearly, there is another whole and entirely untold story.
2. The justifiable reaction. Naturally, Chahal was hurt, and it follows that he had a right to be angry. He lost his temper. Anyone in his shoes would. And naturally, his pain was so great that he couldn’t help but lash out. “I make no excuse for losing my temper. When I discovered this fact and confronted my girlfriend, we had a normal argument. She called 9-11 after I told her I was going to contact her father regarding her activities. And yes, I lost my temper. I understand, accept full responsibility and sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart for that.” The abuser always frames his reaction as typical. Anyone would have felt the same way. You might have had the same reaction. But the truth is that cheating occurs all the time, and many couples separate without violence, or go to counseling and work through the trauma without hitting each other. It’s just that we don’t read about these ordinary people in the news. The disconnect between the words “normal argument” and those that directly follow, “She called 9-11,” is staggering. If the argument had been normal, why would Kakish have called 9-11? The abuser’s justifiable reaction, presented as flowing directly from the justifying event, encourages the abuse victim to reframe the harm done to her in the context of the harm she did to her abuser.
3. The minimizing of the damage. Chahal claims, “I didn’t hit her 117 times, injure her, or cause any trauma as the UCSF medical reports clearly document.” Maybe he didn’t hit her 117 times (though the security camera tape allegedly bears this out), but if he hit her even one time, that’s one time too many. He also writes, “But there is a difference between temper and domestic violence, and the truth of what actually happened is no where close to what the police claimed nor anywhere near what the online chatter and pundits are now making it out to be.” If he screamed at her, if he threatened her with words, if he struck her at all—that is not temper but domestic violence plain and simple. By maintaining that the victim’s reaction is overblown, that what transpired was insignificant, and that he is being unfairly accused, the abuser encourages the victim to question her own account of the events and to hesitate pursuing justice over a “minor incident.” This also sets the stage for the abuser to make the last of the four points in his defense, that he is the victim of someone else’s agenda.
4. The unjustified persecution of the abuser. Chahal writes, “Celebrities in sports, entertainment and business, and high net worth individuals in general are all potential targets. It was only a matter of time when I would fall prey.” Here the abuser reframes his legal troubles as something that happened to him inevitably as a result of his accomplishments and achievements and positions himself as the persecuted victim. This shift enables him to deny all responsibility for his actions and frames the actual victim as the doer, in conjunction with his enemies and the media. The persecution argument mixes the abuser’s narcissism and paranoia with the prevalence of stories of fallen celebrities in the news to obscure the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The idea is, he was set up, the whole thing happened because someone was jealous of his power and out to get him, and what he did would have been ignored and dismissed were it not for his high position.
The response of the business world to Chahal’s conviction is encouraging—his firing from RadiumOne, Condé Nast’s reviewing its vendor relationship with the company, and TechCrunch dropping them as a sponsor because they “simply couldn’t sleep at night knowing that we were supporting and promoting a company led by someone who does not share our values on the issue of domestic abuse.” Leaders who value both their values and their own companies’ economic survival see through the abuser’s specious defense. Highlighting the pattern that underlies that defense, as I have tried to do here, makes it easier to dispense with in the future.