Padma Lakshmi was raped when she was 16.
The 48-year-old model – who has eight-year-old daughter Krishna Thea Lakshmi-Dell with Adam Dell – has revealed she was “molested” by a guy she was dating, who was 23, and how she only felt able to tell her story 32 years later.
In the op-ed for The New York Times, Padma wrote: “When I was 16 years old, I started dating a guy I met at the Puente Hills Mall in a Los Angeles suburb.
“I worked there after school at the accessories counter at Robinsons-May. He worked at a high-end men’s store. He would come in wearing a gray silk suit and flirt with me. He was in college, and I thought he was charming and handsome. He was 23.
“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. On New Year’s Eve, just a few months after we first started dating, he raped me.”
The ‘Top Chef’ star described feeling an “excruciating stabbing pain” between her legs as the male forced himself on top of her. Detailing the rape in depth, she recalled: “The two of us had gone to a couple of parties. Afterward, we went to his apartment.
“While we were talking, I was so tired that I lay on the bed and fell asleep.
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. 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.
Afterward, he said, ‘I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep.’ Then he drove me home.”
Padma didn’t tell anyone, not even her parents, about what happened but she feels if she had she would have “suffered less”.
She said: “I didn’t report it. 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.
“I think if I had at the time named what happened to me as rape — and told others — I might have suffered less. Looking back, I now think I let my rapist off the hook and I let my 16-year-old self down.”
Padma also revealed she was inappropriately touched by a member of her stepfather’s family when she was just a little girl and she had to move to India for 12 months after telling her parents what had happened.
She wrote: “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.”
Padma hopes speaking out will encourage other women to speak out so they don’t have to suffer in silence as she did. She said: “These experiences have affected me and my ability to trust. It took me decades to talk about this with intimate partners and a therapist.
“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.”