Padma Lakshmi, in an opinion editorial for NY Times, has revealed about the time she was raped at 16 and why she kept silent for 32 years. This came in light of harassment accusations that Dr Christine Blasey Ford made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, after years of silence.
“I was raped at 16 and I kept silent”
The 48-year-old actor, who dons several hats — that of a television host, cookbook author and executive producer — referenced an earlier experience when her stepfather’s relative sexually abused her when she was only 7. Her parents, according to her, sent her away after she told them. “The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out,” Lakshmi said. She had briefly told this story on Twitter last Friday.
I was 7 the first time I was sexually assaulted. He was a relative of my mom’s second husband. I told my folks and they sent me away. #WhyIDidntReport
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) September 21, 2018
The Top Chef host writes that she dated a 23-year-old college student at age 16 since he was “charming and handsome” and would “flirt” with her at her part-time retail job at a mall in Los Angeles. Lakshmi, who stated that she was a virgin before she was raped, revealed how he sexually assaulted her while she was sleeping, just a few months into the relationship.
The two went on a few dates and though they were “intimate to a point…he knew that I was a virgin and that I was unsure of when I would be ready to have sex,” she explains.
“I didn’t report it,” she writes. “Not to my mother, not to my friends and certainly not to the police. At first I was in shock. That evening, I let my mother know when I was home, then went to sleep, hoping to forget that night.” She says she felt it was her fault at the time.
“We had no language in the 1980s for date rape,” she reflects.
Lakshmi explained how from a young age she learnt the lesson that speaking out against sexual abuse is a punishable offence
Lakshmi clearly relates her experience with what she’s been seeing on the news concerning Ford. “I have been turning that incident over in my head throughout the past week, as two women have come forward to detail accusations against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh…. On Friday, President Trump tweeted that if what Dr. Blasey said was true, she would have filed a police report years ago. But I understand why both women would keep this information to themselves for so many years, without involving the police. For years, I did the same thing.”
“Want our daughters to never know this fear and shame”
She also reflects upon how she is bringing up her own eight-year-old daughter to be aware of her bodily autonomy.
“I have a daughter now. She’s 8. For years I’ve been telling her the simplest and most obvious words that it took me much of my life to understand: ‘If anybody touches you in your privates or makes you feel uncomfortable, you yell loud. You get out of there and tell somebody. Nobody is allowed to put their hands on you. Your body is yours.’”
Thousands of harassment survivors came forward on social media recently with their own stories of why they didn’t report being sexually assaulted. They took to Twitter and shared their horrific experiences along with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. This created an opposition not only against President Donald Trump, but also anyone else who questions an accuser’s honesty.
Dr Ford had accused Kavanaugh of holding her down and groping her at a party during their high school days. President Trump went on to say that had the accusation been true, Ford would have filed a police report at the time. Trump had questioned Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s claim against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“We all have an opportunity to change the narrative and believe survivors”
Lakshmi, with the revelation, has made way for other survivors to gather the strength and open up too. She tends to make the survivors believe that they’re not alone and will be believed no matter what. She concludes by writing that “if we hold on to the codes of silence that for generations have allowed men to hurt women with impunity,” there’s a lot for everybody to lose.
You can read Padma Lakshmi’s essay in full here.