Padma Lakshmi: I was raped at the age of 16 and I kept silent

In a recent article by New York Times, Padma Lakhsmi opens up her experience of being date raped at the age of 16 and keeping silent about it for years.

Last week, four women accused Brett Kavanaugh, US President Donald Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court Judge, of sexually assaulting them.

Since then, several people have questioned why these women didn’t come forward earlier and how they allowed Kavanaugh to assault them.

In response to this narrative, where people are questioning assault survivors on their timing of coming out with their stories, Padma Lakshmi penned an op-ed in The New York Times in support of sexual assault victims.

On September 21, Padma Lakshmi had taken to Twitter, joining many sexual assault survivors, to share the reasons why people don’t report their attackers right away, using the #WhyIDidntReport.

And yesterday, in her op-ed, Padma Lakshmi narrated her story of getting raped at the age of 16 and why she took almost 32 years to talk about it.

Padma revealed that her boyfriend, who was 23 years old at the time, had raped her while she was asleep. She said, “On New Year’s Eve, just a few months after we first started dating, he raped me. While we were talking, I was so tired that I lay on the bed and fell asleep. The next thing I remember is waking up to a very sharp stabbing pain like a knife blade between my legs. He was on top of me. I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘It will only hurt for a while.’ ‘Please don’t do this,’ I screamed. The pain was excruciating, and as he continued, my tears felt like fear. Afterward, he said, ‘I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep.’ Then he drove me home.”

After the harrowing incident, Padma Lakshmi didn’t talk about it because for the longest time, she thought it was her fault.

She imagined that people would blame her for the incident. “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?'”

She said, “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. Christine Blasey Ford said he climbed on her and covered her mouth during an attempted rape when they were both in high school, and Deborah Ramirez said he exposed himself to her when they were in college. 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. On Friday, I tweeted about what had happened to me so many years ago.”

She then also mentioned the sexual abuse she underwent at the age of 7, which culminated in her being sent to live in India for a year after she told her parents about the incident.

“The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out,” she wrote in the New York Times.

She said, “You may want to know if I had been drinking on the night of my rape. It doesn’t matter, but I was not drunk. Maybe you will want to know what I was wearing or if I had been ambiguous about my desires. It still doesn’t matter, but I was wearing a long-sleeved, black Betsey Johnson maxi dress that revealed only my shoulders.”

She also drew parallels to her story and the story of survivors in the Kavanaugh case by addressing the allegations made by President Trump against Professor Christine Blasey Ford.

Trump tweeted on September 21, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place! (sic)”

Padma Lakshmi wrote in her op-ed, “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. Now, 32 years after my rape, I am stating publicly what happened. I have nothing to gain by talking about this. 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.”

Padma’s story and the accusers of the Kavanaugh case bring to light how the world has always been cruel to women who call out their predators, especially men in power, but she also requested to change this for once.

Also Read: Tanushree Dutta finally openly names Nana Patekar as the Sexual Harasser from 10 years ago; says nobody came to help

Also Read: Tanushree Dutta says #metoo movement is far from happening in India as she’s yet to be given justice