Padma Lakshmi on her decision to break silence about rape

AUSTIN, Texas — Padma Lakshmi is opening up about her decision to reveal she was molested by a family member at 7 and raped at 16 in a New York Times op-ed prior to the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.

“It was a Friday night and the hearings kept getting pushed after the weekend and I sort of saw this tweet that said, ‘If it was so bad, why didn’t she report? Why didn’t she say anything? Why didn’t her parents, her loving parents, say anything?’ And it stirred something really deep in me, some anger that I have really, obviously not dealt with,” the “Top Chef” host, 48, told an audience at SXSW on Saturday.

“In our world, it is very hard to come forward with something so private. Victims are not supported as they should be. I didn’t report. I was 16 and I lost my virginity because I was raped. And that is not what I imagined would happen to me and it was someone known to me. I probably would have never talked about it. It was a very rash decision to do that,” she continued.

Lakshmi, who appeared on a panel titled “Making Change On and Off the Screen” alongside Amber Heard, Ike Barinholtz and Executive Director of the ACLU, Anthony Romero, said she initially tweeted “something about it” but soon decided, “this is a really serious issue and it deserves a deeper conversation than a tweet.”

Anthony Romero, Amber Heard, Padma Lakshmi, and Ike Barinholtz at Featured Session: Making Change On and Off the Screen during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals
Anthony Romero, Amber Heard, Padma Lakshmi, and Ike Barinholtz at Featured Session: Making Change On and Off the Screen during the 2019 SXSW Conference and FestivalsGetty Images

“I made the decision to write the op-ed and then I was thinking about it and I chickened out. Then I thought well, if I don’t do it and [Kavanaugh] gets through — I mean we know the end of the story now — and he gets by … am I gonna feel like crap because I didn’t do everything I could?” she explained.

While Lakshmi maintained that “I don’t think you have to be a parent to be sensitive about this issue,” her 9-year-old daughter, Krishna, played a role in her decision to come forward with her story.

“Yes I was raped when I was 16, but that wasn’t the only thing or the first thing sadly that happened to me. Raising my daughter and seeing, helping her out of the bathtub when she was 6 and 7 really was a very triggering thing for me. It was simmering a lot under the surface,” Lakshmi said.

She continued, “I sadly know more women who have had some version of sexual abuse happen to them than not. That’s terrifying to me because when somebody takes your innocence like that, your way of being changes. You are never that happy-go-lucky, free child anymore. When someone robs that [from] you, you can never get it back, it’s like trying to unring a bell.”

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