It’s been a time of great revelations for Padma Lakshmi who, recently, admitted that, while pregnant with her daughter, she was not sure who her child’s father was. In what seems to be an effort to tackle topics that are often painful and taboo, Lakshmi has also revealed that she survived childhood sexual abuse.
In her memoir, Love, Loss and What We Ate, the television personality recounted a devastating story with an equally sad ending. The 45-year-old explained that, when she was just seven years old, she lived in a two bedroom apartment with her mother and stepfather. She also shared an actual bed with one of her stepfather’s relatives which, according to Lakshmi, isn’t uncommon to those used to sharing cramped living quarters in India.
She wrote: “one night, I woke up to his hand in my underpants. He took my hand and placed it inside his briefs. I don’t know how many times it happened before, since I suspect I slept through some incidents.” Distressed by what happened, young Lakshmi urinated behind her bed which was a signal to her mother that something was very wrong.
In her book, she detailed the grim outcome after telling her mother about the abuse. She wrote: “once you take a girl’s innocence, you can never get it back. What I remember more is telling my mother what happened and her believing me and then she and I telling someone else that it happened and that person not believing me. And then the next week, I was sent to India.”
Rather than get the love and support she needed, Lakshmi was sent away, exiled as if she was the one who had done something wrong. It must have been very painful and confusing to a seven year old girl. Years later, her mother would apologize and acknowledge her mistake but, the reality is, no matter how sorry anyone is today, Lakshmi was alone and without her mother at a time when she needed her most.
Fortunately, the star seems to have found a way to put it behind her. She no longer dwells on it but can see how it acted as a catalyst for other things that happened in her life. She acknowledges that other children have suffered greater atrocities but that this experience changed how she felt about her body and marred her innocence.
She shared her story in hopes of making people realize that this happens more than we think. The United States Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau states that, at least, 9.2% of children in this country have been assaulted. That’s an unacceptably high number but, if we work together, we can make things better, and safer, for our children.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing abuse, seek help immediately by speaking to someone you trust, reporting the situation to medical personnel or law enforcement, or call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800.656.HOPE (4673).