Padma Lakshmi Writes About Rape in a Powerful New York Times Op-Ed

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

“Why didn’t you report sooner? Why didn’t you go to the police?” That’s the common refrain any time a woman (or anyone) speaks about sexual misconduct years after the fact. When Christine Blasey Ford publicly alleged attempted rape by Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, Trump himself tweeted: “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.”

In response, women and men alike created a hashtag, #WhyIDidn’tReport, to explain why talking about their assaults publicly, let alone going to the police, would have resulted in trauma equal to the assault itself. Padma Lakshmi, “Top Chef” host and writer, was among them. She elaborated on her tweet Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed.

Lakshmi wrote that she was raped at age 16 by a 23-year-old man she had been dating. “I understand why both women would keep this information to themselves for so many years, without involving the police,” she wrote, referring to Ford and Kavanaugh’s second accuser, Deborah Ramirez.

Lakshmi explained that the man was “charming and handsome” and that “he would park the car and come in and sit on our couch and talk to my mother. He never brought me home late on a school night, all behavior that made him seem respectful to the outside world.

That did not stop him from raping her after she told him she didn’t want to have sex with him. When she resisted, he said, “It will only hurt for a while.” Afterward, he claimed that “I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep.”

“I didn’t report it. Not to my mother, not to my friends and certainly not to the police,” Lakshmi wrote.

<blockquote>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.</blockquote>

Later, she began to question incidents that had occurred earlier in her life:

<blockquote>I realize that by the time of this rape, I had already absorbed certain lessons. When I was 7 years old, my stepfather’s relative touched me between my legs and put my hand on his erect penis. Shortly after I told my mother and stepfather, they sent me to India for a year to live with my grandparents. The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out.</blockquote>

Now that Lakshmi is a parent, she’s making sure that her daughter understands that her body is her own: “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.”

Read the entire op-ed here.