Padma Lakshmi, model and TV personality, has revealed in a New York Times op-ed that she was raped at the age of 16 and kept silent.
Lakshmi said that she dated a 23-year-old ”charming and handsome” college student when she was 16, who 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 said that he sexually assaulted her while she was asleep.
“When we went out, he would park the car and come in and sit on our couch and talk to my mother,” she recalled in the piece. “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.”
On New year’s eve three decades ago, Lakshmi said that after a night out with her boyfriend, she fell asleep at his apartment. “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,” the star wrote. “I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘It will only hurt for a while.’ “
Unaware of what date rape meant at that point in time, Lakshmi said she was unsure of whether the incident classified as rape or sex, but continued to tell her future boyfriends that she was a virgin. “Emotionally, I still was,” she noted.
Lakshmi then explained how, when she was 7 years old, she was sent to India to live with her grandparents for a year after she told her mother and stepfather that a relative had touched her inappropriately and put her hand on his penis. “The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out,” the star said.
“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,” she concluded.