No matter how famous or powerful a woman is, talking about sexual assault is not easy. The trauma associated with the crime, together with the cruel attitude of society toward rape, often force victims into silence. And whenever a woman musters the courage to speak about her ordeal, it certainly empowers other women to break free from the culture of silence.
TV personality and best-selling author Padma Lakshmi recently wrote a heartrending op-ed in the New York Times in which she talked about being raped at the age of 16 by an older boyfriend, who was 23 at the time. She said that because of the trauma of the incident, coupled with shame and internalized fear, she decided not to report her rape.
Lakshmi, who was a virgin when she was raped, had experienced sexual assault before, too, because of which she could not open up about her suffering. She wrote that despite the pain and trauma that she had to bear, there was “no language in the 1980s for date rape.”
The 48-year-old decided to come forward with her story in the wake of sexual assault allegations that have recently surfaced against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford – the woman who accused Kavanaugh of attempting to sexually assault her at a party in the early 1980s when they both were teenagers – has been questioned by people for not reporting the assault earlier.
Even President Donald Trump issued a statement on Twitter implying that Ford would have reported the assault to the authorities if it was true.
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
Lakshmi also addressed the common myths in her op-ed that rape apologists often refer to whenever some woman comes up with accusations of sexual assault, especially if they are leveled against someone powerful.
“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.”
Shortly after the op-ed was published, Lakshmi received appreciation and support from men and women alike for her brutal honesty and courage. She said that she understands why “a woman would wait years to disclose a sexual assault.”
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. https://t.co/pqFt50t4R1— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) September 25, 2018
Lakshmi had previously talked about her assault using the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag on Twitter, but recently confessed that she regrets her decision to stay silent in the past, as reported by Hello Giggles.
Lakshmi, who has an 8-year-old daughter, wrote in the op-ed that she openly warns her daughter about sexual predators, and teaches her not to remain silent.
“If anybody touches you in your privates or makes you feel uncomfortable, you yell loud. You get out of there and tell somebody. Nobody is allowed to put their hands on you. Your body is yours.”
After opening up about her rape, she also extended her support to survivors of rape and asked people to empathize with them instead of shaming them.