#MeToo: Here’s why Padma Lakhsmi disclosed her rape incident 32 years later. “If you speak up, you will be cast out”

#MeToo: Here’s why Padma Lakhsmi disclosed her rape incident 32 years later. “If you speak up, you will be cast out”

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Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi recently talked about being sexually assaulted to explain why women choose to remain silent about their ordeal.

In an op-ed published in the New York Times, American chef and author Padma Lakshmi said she was raped at the age of 16 by her then-boyfriend, and explained her decision to open up about it for the first time, 32 years later.

Her decision to share her story comes after two women, who came forward to detail accusations against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, were dismissed by US President Donald Trump.

Mentioning one of the two women, Trump wrote in a tweet that if what she said was true she would have filed a police report years ago.

“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,” Lakshmi wrote.

The Top Chef host’s essay began with explaining that she met her 23-year-old boyfriend at a mall in a Los Angeles suburb.

“When we went out, 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. 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 wrote.

She revealed that he raped her on New Year’s Eve, a few months after they began dating. She said that she fell asleep at her boyfriend’s apartment after going to a couple of parties with him.

“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.’”

“‘I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep,’” she recalled him saying to her.

She said she did not report what happened and felt like it was her fault. “Not to my mother, not to my friends and certainly not to the police. 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,” she said.

“Soon I began to feel that it was my fault,” she wrote. “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?’”

Lakshmi said that she doesn’t think she classified it as sex in her head and continued to tell boyfriends that she was a virgin. “Emotionally, I still was,” she wrote.

“When I think about it now, I realize that by the time of this rape, I had already absorbed certain lessons. When I was seven years old, my stepfather’s relative touched me between my legs and put my hand on his erect penis,” she revealed. “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.”

She said that the experiences affected her ability to trust other people.

She wrote that the assault has been present in her mind recently due to Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez’s allegations against the Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.

 

“On Friday, President Trump tweeted that if what Dr. Ford said was true, she would have filed a police report years ago. 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,” she wrote. “On Friday, I tweeted about what had happened to me so many years ago.”

She continued: “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.”

“Now, 32 years after my rape, I am stating publicly what happened. I have nothing to gain by talking about this,” she wrote. “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.”

“I am speaking now because I want us all to fight so that our daughters never know this fear and shame and our sons know that girls’ bodies do not exist for their pleasure and that abuse has grave consequences,” she concluded. “Those messages should be very clear as we consider whom we appoint to make decisions on the highest court of our land.”

Lakshmi posted the Op-Ed on Twitter, writing, “I wrote an Op-Ed for @nytimes about something terrible that happened to me in my youth, something that happens to young women every day. We all have an opportunity to change the narrative and believe survivors.”

In a reply to Trump, using the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, which has become a platform and outlet for survivors to share why they never reported their assault, Lakshmi wrote, “President Trump tweeted that if what Ford said was true, she would have filed a police report years ago. But I understand why both women would keep this information to themselves. For years, I did the same thing.” Well, not anymore.

“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,” she said.

In the article, the host shared how she had been ‘taught a lesson’ for speaking up. “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.”

Lakshmi also expressed how experiences of being assaulted and raped affected her ability to trust. “These experiences have affected me and my ability to trust. It took me decades to talk about this with intimate partners and a therapist,” she said.

“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,” Lakshmi wrote.

Women all over the world have been using the hashtag to explain why they did not report their assaults to authorities.

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