“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi on Monday opened up about being sexually assaulted in her first TV interview since penning a powerful essay for The New York Times in September about being raped at age 16.
The award-winning cookbook author said President Donald Trump’s dismissive and hostile comments about Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, led her to go public with her story.
“I don’t even know … if I would have written that piece” if Trump hadn’t questioned why Ford didn’t come forward sooner about her experience, Lakshmi said on NBC’s “Today.”
“A lot of us don’t report it. There’s no upside to reporting it. There was no upside for Dr. Ford ― clearly. But she’s a hero to many of us,” she added, apparently referring to Senate confirmation of Kavanaugh to the high court despite Ford’s testimony.
Like Lakshmi, many sexual assault survivors are reluctant to report their experiences to law enforcement. As the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network points out on its website, the decision to report to law enforcement is personal and helps some survivors “recover and regain a sense of control over their lives.”
In her essay for the Times, Lakshmi explained why she didn’t file a police report when, as a 16-year-old girl in Los Angeles, she was raped by the 23-year-old man she was then dating. She described her feelings of shock, anger and denial in the years that followed.
Lakshmi on Monday said she didn’t want to be defined by her experience with sexual assault.
“I have a show that’s Emmy-nominated, I have a child, I have a foundation for women’s reproductive health, I’m with the ACLU, and I speak on their behalf for immigration ― all this stuff,” Lakshmi told NBC. “I don’t want to be known as that girl from that cooking show who was raped.”
She continued: “I think women feel … like they have an invisible scarlet letter that this happened to them. And I think we have to stop thinking about these people that it happens to … as victims and start thinking about them as survivors.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.