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Was 7 when assaulted, got raped at 16: Padma Lakshmi explains what kept her silent

I am speaking now because I want us all to fight so that our daughters never know this fear and shame and our sons know that girls’ bodies do not exist for their pleasure.

SNS | New Delhi |

Author and American model Padma Lakshmi revealed that she was raped when she was 16 years old. She wrote about her incident in an op-ed article in The New York Times which was published on Tuesday.

She even penned down the reasons that kept her silent for so long. At that time, Padma recalled, she was working in a mall in suburban Los Angeles where she met another employee, 23, and they started dating. On the New Year’s Eve, she wrote, the man raped her. She did not report the incident to the police, and not even mentioned this to her mother or friends.

After 32 years, Padma Lakshmi made the revelation while responding to the recent accusations of sexual assault against US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. She said she understood why the women – Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez – talked about their alleged bitter experience with Kavanaugh so late.

She gave details of what happened with her and how she ended up blaming herself for it. She wrote, “We had no language in the 1980s for date rape. I imagined that adults would say: ‘What the hell were you doing in his apartment? Why were you dating someone so much older?’ I don’t think I classified it as rape — or even sex — in my head. I’d always thought that when I lost my virginity, it would be a big deal — or at least a conscious decision. The loss of control was disorienting. In my mind, when I one day had intercourse, it would be to express love, to share pleasure or to have a baby. This was clearly none of those things.”

Padma Lakshmi recalled another incident that occurred when she was seven. She said her step father’s relative touched her inappropriately and when she told her parents about it they sent her to India to live with her grandparents. “It took me decades to talk about this with intimate partners and a therapist,” she wrote.

“I have a daughter now and she is 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’,” Padma added.

“I am speaking now because I want us all to fight so that our daughters never know this fear and shame and our sons know that girls’ bodies do not exist for their pleasure and that abuse has grave consequences.”