‘I let my young self down when I let the rapist off’


PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump’s tweet ques­tion­ing why Chris­tine Blasey Ford didn’t im­me­di­ately re­port be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted in the 1980s, in­spired the hash­tag #WhyIDid­ntRe­port on so­cial me­dia, as wo­man shared the many rea­sons they didn’t come for­ward with ear­lier abuse.

An au­thor and the host of Top Chef, Padma Lak­shmi was one of those who came for­ward with a har­row­ing tale of her own sex­ual abuse. Writ­ing in the New York Times on Tues­day, Lak­shmi ex­panded on the con­ver­sa­tion about her own past that she be­gan af­ter Trump’s tweet.

“I have been turn­ing that in­ci­dent over in my head through­out the past week, as two women have come for­ward to de­tail ac­cu­sa­tions against the Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh,” she wrote.

“On Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Trump tweeted that if what Dr Blasey 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.”

Lak­shmi said she was raped on New Year’s eve at the age of 16 when she was still a vir­gin, by the 23-year-old man she was dat­ing. Af­ter a night at a cou­ple of par­ties, she had fallen asleep at the apart­ment of the man, who she did not name.

She said the next thing she re­mem­bered was wak­ing up to a very sharp stab­bing pain like a knife blade be­tween her legs. He was on top of her.

I asked, “What are you do­ing?” He said, “It will only hurt for a while.”

“Please don’t do this,” I screamed. “The pain was ex­cru­ci­at­ing, and as he con­tin­ued, my tears felt like fear.

“Af­ter­wards, he said: ‘I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep.’

“Then he drove me home.” She said she did not re­port the in­ci­dent to the po­lice or tell her mother, as she had not fully un­der­stood the ex­pe­ri­ence, de­spite the trauma in­flicted.

“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?’” she wrote.

“I don’t think I clas­si­fied it as rape – or even sex – in my head. I’d al­ways thought that when I lost my vir­gin­ity, it would be a big deal – or at least a con­scious de­ci­sion. The loss of con­trol was dis­ori­ent­ing.”

She also de­scribed an­other in­ci­dent of sex­ual abuse, when she was 7 years old and a rel­a­tive of her step­fa­ther touched her be­tween her legs and put her hand on his pe­nis, she said.

Her mother and step­fa­ther had sent her to In­dia to live with her grand­par­ents af­ter she told them, giv­ing an­other rea­son why she was per­haps re­luc­tant to speak out in the fu­ture.

“The les­son was: if you speak up, you will be cast out. These ex­pe­ri­ences have af­fected me and my abil­ity to trust.”

Still, she says the de­ci­sion to try to sup­press these in­ci­dents was not the right one for her men­tal health.

“I think if I had at the time named what hap­pened to me as rape – and told oth­ers – I might have suf­fered less,” she wrote.

“Look­ing back, I now think I let my rapist off the hook and I let my 16-yearold self down.”

Lak­shmi said she’s been telling her 8-year-old daugh­ter to yell if any­one ever does some­thing to make her phys­i­cally un­com­fort­able, and tell some­one about it later.

“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.”


In this file pic­ture Padma Lak­shmi is seen ar­riv­ing at night two of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los An­ge­les last month.

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