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The essay begins with the Top Chef host and executive producer explaining that she met her boyfriend, who was 23, at a mall in a Los Angeles suburb.
“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,” she wrote.
She revealed that he raped her on New Year’s Eve, a few months after they began dating. Lakshmi wrote that the experience has been present in her mind recently following Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“On Friday, President Trump tweeted that if what Dr. Ford 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. For years, I did the same thing,” she wrote. “On Friday, I tweeted about what had happened to me so many years ago.”
“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,” she continued. “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.”
Lakshmi wrote that the rape took place after the two arrived at his apartment following a few parties. “While we were talking, I was so tired that I lay on the bed and fell asleep,” she said. “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.”
After stating how painful it was, Lakshmi recalled her rapist saying, “I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep.”
She noted that, like many victims, she did not report the rape. “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,” she said.
“Soon I began to feel that it was my fault,” she wrote. “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?'”
“When I think about it now, I realize that by the time of this rape, I had already absorbed certain lessons. When I was 7 years old, my stepfather’s relative touched me between my legs and put my hand on his erect penis,” she revealed. “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.”
Lakshmi wrote that the experiences affected her ability to trust others, including romantic partners and a therapist.
She then addressed Kavanaugh’s supporters that say he shouldn’t be punished for a crime he committed as a teenager. “The woman pays the price for the rest of her life, and so do the people who love her,” she wrote.
“I think if I had at the time named what happened to me as rape — and told others — I might have suffered less,” she continued. “Looking back, I now think I let my rapist off the hook and I let my 16-year-old self down.”
“Now, 32 years after my rape, I am stating publicly what happened. 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.”
The essay concluded with the statistic that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. “I am speaking now because I want us all to fight so that our daughters never know this fear and shame and our sons know that girls’ bodies do not exist for their pleasure and that abuse has grave consequences,” she wrote. “Those messages should be very clear as we consider whom we appoint to make decisions on the highest court of our land.”
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