Popular model and author Padma Lakshmi has revealed that she was raped when she was 16 by a man she was dating at the time. Lakshmi wrote about the incident in an op-ed article in The New York Times which was published Tuesday. Her revelation comes in the backdrop of the sexual assault accusations made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
In the article, Lakshmi recalled that she had been working in a mall in suburban Los Angeles where another employee, 23, would often flirt with her. She said she found him to be charming and handsome and they started dating. A few months later, on New Year’s Eve, he raped her. She did not report the incident to anyone, not her mother, not her friends, not even to the police.
The 48-year-old said that since two women came forward accusing Brett Kavanaugh, an attorney and jurist serving as a US Circuit Judge who is also a Supreme Court nominee, she has been thinking about the incident that happened to her. She wrote, “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.”
She gives details of what happened 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.”
Lakshmi mentions another incident which occurred when she was seven, 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. She said experiences like this affected her ability to trust, “It took me decades to talk about this with intimate partners and a therapist.”
The reality TV star clarifies she has nothing to gain by talking about it now but she feels if she had admitted to herself that she had been raped if she had told other about it, she might have suffered less. She thinks she left her rapist off the hook and let her 16-year-old self down. “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 further says that: “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.”
Lakshmi who has never been shy to voice her political views further writes, “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. Those messages should be very clear as we consider whom we appoint to make decisions on the highest court of our land.”