Padma Lakshmi on Decision to Share Rape Story After Kavanaugh Hearing

Padma Lakshmi  - NBC News TODAY - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of NBC News’ TODAY

"I don't want to be known as the girl from that cooking show who was raped," she said about not wanting to be defined by the incident. "I think women feel that way."

On Monday's episode of NBC's Today show, Padma Lakshmi opened up about her decision to come forward about her sexual assault.

Lakshmi penned an essay for The New York Times in September about her brutal rape at the age of 16. She revealed that her boyfriend, who was 23, raped her on New Year's Eve while she was asleep.

She explained that she came forward following Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez's allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Trump's criticism that the victims did not file police reports following the alleged assaults. Despite the allegations, Kavanaugh was confirmed into the Supreme Court.

She explained that, like many victims, she didn't report her rape. "Not to my mother, not to my friends and certainly not to the police," she wrote.

"I think when you get older, you have a power that you didn't have when you were young. You feel able to speak out. When you have children, you become much more conscious of the long term effects of all of our decisions, even the decisions you keep quiet," Lakshmi told Today co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb.

Lakshmi said that she doesn't know if she would have written the essay had Trump not sent out a tweet questioning the victims. She added that she was inspired by the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport on Twitter.

"After I tweeted, it didn't feel right to me. I thought, 'What happened to me was really important and really painful and it deserves more than a hashtag,'" she said. "I was furiously writing it after my daughter, Krishna, went to bed that weekend, and at one point I said, 'No, I'm not gonna do this.' And then I couldn’t sleep and I thought, 'How am I gonna feel if he gets confirmed and I didn't say something? I'm gonna regret that for the rest of my life.'"

"I think I did what many millions of women, and a lot of men, do. We just bury it. We just push it down so far deep inside and hope that it will be so buried that it probably never happened," she explained about her decision to stay quiet for 32 years. "We try to erase what happened to us, and the only way to truly erase that trauma is to really confront it."

She said that she doesn't recommend coming forward about her assault in the manner that she did. "In my hurry to get it written, I didn't stop to think about my own personal well-being," she said.

A few days after the op-ed was published, when she'd rested, Lakshmi went to Boston for a speaking engagement at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I just said, 'If I don't want that rape, or what happened to me, to define me, then I have to move on and let the good things in my life define me,' and I've had so many great things happen to me," she said.

Following the publication of the piece, a number of people have discussed it with Lakshmi. She shared that one woman received the essay and an apology by a former classmate. "That made my day. Even when people would come up — and all of the responses have been super positive — I would suddenly get tearful," she said. "Because I didn’t deal with it for so long, it was coming up too fast and such a rush."

She added that some women don't report their assault because they don't want to be defined by the experience. "I don't want to be known as they girl from that cooking show who was raped. I think women feel that way," she said. "I think we have to stop thinking of them as victims and start thinking about them as survivors."

Watch the full interview below.