Padma Lakshmi is getting real about a lot of topics in her new memoir Love, Loss And What We Ate — including being molested as a young girl by a friend of her then-stepfather.
“I wanted to talk about it because if women like me don’t talk about it, who will?”
The 45-year-old actress was just seven years old when she recalls the first incident.
As a child, she lived with her mom in a Queens two bedroom apartment, along with her then-stepfather and his friend, with whom she shared a bed.
This may seem strange, but she explains:
“[It was] a state of affairs that, to people like us, who were used to living far too many to an apartment in India, seemed relatively normal.”
She remembers in the book:
“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.”
Her mother later noticed something was off when she discovered Padma had urinated behind her bed in distress:
“There was a space between my headboard, the bed and the wall where I’d occasionally toss pink pistachio shells. Once I peed in the space, defiling the placed where I’d been defiled.”
Looking back on the terrible situation, Lakshmi reflects:
“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. In retrospect however, he should have been the one to go. Years later, in tears, my mother would acknowledge this grave mistake.”
“It’s not something I think about that much anymore, but it was the catalyst for a lot of things. It was the catalyst for my mother’s divorce, for me going to India. It was the catalyst for me being different about my body and just less open in the world. It was a loss of innocence in a way. What happened to me was not even that bad compared to what happens to many young girls and boys. But it was something that happened. I didn’t want to dwell on it.”
Padma hopes that by sharing her story, she’ll be able to reach others:
“I think of all those girls I pass on the street who are in elementary school. I think about my daughter’s classmates or my daughter. It happens more than we think. Every time I go to JFK, I can see my apartment with the graffiti on the brick and I wonder what girl is living there and what her life is like. It was by no means on the scale of what many little girls and boys go through but it did happen.”
We commend Padma’s courage for being so open with her past — and we think it’s only fitting for her new book to be available on International Women’s Day!
[Image via WENN.]