This is Why Padma Lakshmi Never Reported Her Sexual Assault

Padma Lakshmi | Craig Barritt/Getty Images

Padma Lakshmi, the host of Bravo’s Top Chef, revealed she was raped as a teenager and sexually molested as a child to punctuate why survivors of sexual assault don’t come forward. After President Donald Trump questioned why accusers of  Supreme Court candidate, Brett Kavanaugh didn’t come forward, Lakshmi said she could no longer remain silent.

In a New York Times op-ed, Lakshmi detailed two painful assaults she endured, including the shame and confusion she experienced. She kept both assaults a secret until now, inspired to tell her story to demonstrate why survivors are often too paralyzed to come forward.

This is what happened when she was molested as a child

Lakshmi recounts being molested by her stepfather’s relative when she was 7 years old. Following the incident, she told her mother and stepfather what happened., However, instead of seeking help or investigating the situation, her family sent her to India to live with her grandparents. “The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out,” she wrote.

She was then raped as a teenager

When Lakshmi was 16 years old, she was raped by a new boyfriend. He raped her after she had fallen asleep at his house. Instead of being angry or turning the man in, she blamed herself. “Soon I began to feel that it was my fault. We had no language in the 1980s for date rape,” she wrote. “I imagined that adults would say: “What the hell were you doing in his apartment? Why were you dating someone so much older?”

Confusion set in. She wrote that she didn’t think she classified it as a rape or even sex in her 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.”

Early lessons dictated her response as a teen

Why didn’t Lakshmi report her attack as a teen? Following the rape, she wrote, “I didn’t report it. 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.”

“When I think about it now, I realize that by the time of this rape, I had already absorbed certain lessons,” she wrote, referring to being molested as a child. “These experiences have affected me and my ability to trust. It took me decades to talk about this with intimate partners and a therapist.”

Why this has everything to do with the Supreme Court nomination

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh | Chip Somodevilla/ Getty Images

Some people assert Kavanaugh should not be held responsible for actions in his teens. Or that the assault was too long ago. However, Lakshmi has this message: “Some say a man shouldn’t pay a price for an act he committed as a teenager. But the woman pays the price for the rest of her life, and so do the people who love her.”

She adds that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. She is speaking out now to fight for those children too scared or ashamed to come forward. And, “Those messages should be very clear as we consider whom we appoint to make decisions on the highest court of our land.”

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