Author-actor-television show host Padma Lakshmi on Tuesday said a man raped her on New Year’s Eve when she was 16 years old. She spoke about the incident in an op-ed in the New York Times after United States President Donald Trump dismissed a woman’s allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County in the early 1980s.
Lakshmi said that she dated a 23-year-old man she met at the Puente Hills Mall in Los Angeles when she was 16. “I worked there after school at the accessories counter at Robinsons-May,” she said. “He worked at a high-end men’s store. He would come in wearing a grey silk suit and flirt with me. He was in college, and I thought he was charming and handsome.”
“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,” she said. However, she added: “On New Year’s Eve, just a few months after we first started dating, he raped me.”
Lakshmi said she “understands” why the two women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault would keep the information to themselves for many years. “I didn’t report it [the rape]. Not to my mother, not to my friends and certainly not to the police,” the author wrote. “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.”
The author said that she began to believe that the rape had been her fault. “I don’t think I classified it as rape – or even sex – in my head,” she added.
Lakshmi wrote that she had also been molested by her stepfather’s relative when she was seven years old. She added that when she told her mother and stepfather about it, she was sent to India to live with her grandparents. “The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out,” she added.
“These experiences have affected me and my ability to trust,” Lakshmi wrote. “It took me decades to talk about this with intimate partners and a therapist. 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,” she added. “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.”