Padma Lakshmi opens up about being raped at age 16 and why "#WhyIDidntReport"
In a powerful New York Times op-ed, Padma Lakshmi opens up about being raped as a teenager in the 1980s, explaining why she and so many other sexual-assault victim remained silent
In the wake of sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that allegedly went unreported for decades, Padma Lakshmi is recalling her own painful memories of being raped when she was 16 years old.
In a powerful op-ed in the New York Times published on Tuesday, the 48-year-old 'Top Chef' host wrote that she dated a 23-year-old college student when she was 16 because he was “charming and handsome” and would “flirt” with her at her part-time retail job at a mall in Los Angeles.
But just a few months into the relationship, Lakshmi says he sexually assaulted her while she was sleeping. “When we went out, he would park the car and come in and sit on our couch and talk to my mother,” Lakshmi began. “He never brought me home late on a school night. We were intimate to a point, but he knew that I was a virgin and that I was unsure of when I would be ready to have sex.”
Then she added; "On New Year’s Eve, just a few months after we first started dating, he raped me.”
She went on to share several details of the encounter, explaining that she was neither drinking nor wearing anything revealing — though “it doesn’t matter,” she asserted — and that she went home with him, fell asleep, and woke up with him on top of her.
“I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Lakshmi wrote. “He said, ‘It will only hurt for a while.’ ‘Please don’t do this,’ I screamed.”
The TV host and model added that she felt it was her fault at the time, “We had no language in the 1980s for date rape.”
Last Friday on Twitter, the mum of one also referenced an earlier experience with sexual abuse, by her stepfather’s relative when she was only 7 years old. She explained her reason why she did not report because when she told her parents they sent her away; “The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out,” Lakshmi said.
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 second time I was 16 years old and a virgin. He was my boyfriend. "Date rape" wasn't discussed in the 80's. I was horrified and ashamed. #WhyIDidntReport— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) September 21, 2018
The third time I was assaulted I was 23. I thought that no one would believe me, because no one wanted to stand up to him. I had seen the way Anita Hill was treated when she came forward. #WhyIDidntReport— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) September 21, 2018
In her latest op-ed piece, Lakshmi drew connections between her story and the ongoing events, namely the allegations against Justice Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump’s comments questioning why Dr. Ford didn’t file a police report the time—which caused the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport to trend on Twitter.
I wrote an Op-Ed for @nytimes about something terrible that happened to me in my youth, something that happens to young women every day. We all have an opportunity to change the narrative and believe survivors. https://t.co/pqFt50t4R1— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) September 25, 2018
“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,” she said of Ford and the second Kavanaugh accuser, Deborah Ramirez.
“I have nothing to gain by talking about this,” she added. “But we all have a lot to lose if we put a time limit on telling the truth about sexual assault and if we hold on to the codes of silence that for generations have allowed men to hurt women with impunity.”
On Monday, stars including Samantha Bee, Alyssa Milano, and Kerry Washington participated in the nationwide #BelieveSurvivors walkout in support of Dr. Ford, which was organized by Planned Parenthood.