In the piece, the 48-year-old chronicled the scary experience she had at 16 years old when her 23-year-old boyfriend at the time took advantage of her. “When we went out, he would park the car and come in and sit on our couch and talk to my mother,” she recalled. “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.”
However, he didn’t exactly respect that. After going to a few parties together, Padma fell asleep at his apartment, but was woken up by an unpleasant feeling. “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,” she wrote. “I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘It will only hurt for a while.'” He later said, “‘I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep.'”
Padma did not report what happened at the time — and she even felt like it was her own fault. In fact, she wouldn’t even classify the situation as sex or rape because she still thought of herself as a virgin despite it. “Emotionally, I still was,” she added.
When she was seven years old, she was the victim of another unfortunate situation. After telling her parents one of her relatives inappropriately put her hand on their penis, they sent her to India to live with her grandparents. “The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out,” she said of how her parents handled her speaking up about sexual assault.
“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,” Padma continued. “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.”
To people saying “Why didn’t he/she report it?” When something so evil happens to you it takes a long time to process it. In our victim-blaming culture it takes incredible courage to come forward. The victim is treated like the perpetrator.
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) September 22, 2018
The mom-of-one has also been vocal about this subject on social media. “I understand why both women would keep this information to themselves for so many years, without involving the police,” she wrote in one tweet. Another said, “To people saying ‘Why didn’t he/she report it?’ When something so evil happens to you it takes a long time to process it. In our victim-blaming culture, it takes incredible courage to come forward. The victim is treated like the perpetrator.” You’re so brave for speaking out, Padma.