Padma Lakshmi Reveals Speaking Out About Her Rape Prompted One Woman's Attacker to Apologize
After publishing an op-ed about being raped in the New York Times on Tuesday, Lakshmi revealed the piece inspired some real change
The Top Chef host, 48, spoke at the Open Endoscopy Forum on Friday — just three days after she wrote a powerful in a piece for the Times in which she revealed she was raped by her 23-year-old boyfriend when she was 16.
Speaking at the forum held at that Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lakshmi told the audience that she had one woman approach her to tell the host how she was personally impacted by the op-ed.
“There was this woman that came up to me and said, ‘I read your piece and I wanna thank you and it was really moving,'” she recalls of her interaction.
The woman then went on to explain that she received “an email from someone I haven’t seen since high school, and it was the boy who assaulted me. And he sent me the link to the article and he said, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know then what I know now and I shouldn’t have ever done that to you. And I apologize.'”
While Lakshmi explained that the past week has been a whirlwind and difficult to process, she has no regrets of sharing her story.
“I’m very glad I did it,” she said. “The stories women and men have shared with me have become some of the most moving things I have read, felt, discussed in my life.”
“I had a family write to me yesterday morning about their daughter who was raped last week on campus. And she went to campus police and did all of the things you need to do: rape kit, examined,” she explained. “And then her father wrote to me because he said she was having second thoughts about pressing charges. I don’t blame her and I don’t think anybody can blame her. It certainly underlined the truth.”
Lakshmi also told the audience on Friday that she felt compelled to write the op-ed in light of the inquiry into the sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, calling it “an emergency situation.”
“I was just so incensed,” she said. “I think what helped was that it was a time sensitive issue. When I wrote it, I thought the vote was gonna be Monday so I knew I had to act fast. The emergency of that forced my hand.”
“Since then, the stories I’ve heard have been — I don’t even know how to verbalize how I feel yet,” she continued. “It has been compelling and it’s like a hundred times magnified feeling that I felt when I first shared my saga with endometriosis.”
The author has been a longtime advocate of raising awareness for endometriosis since being diagnosed as a teen. She previously revealed to PEOPLE that her health condition left her bedridden “once a week, every month.”
“No one wants to talk about their period. It’s not my nature to go on TV and talk about my vagina, but it was such a good cause,” she told PEOPLE in March. “I saw how much better my life was after I had surgery and got the proper treatment. I was like, ‘Oh! This is what normal people feel like.'”
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Lakshmi, who co-founded of the Endometriosis Foundation of America in 2009, also touched upon the “emotional disease” during her appearance at MIT and encouraged women to share their experiences, which often go unspoken about.
“It’s quite a foreign thing, especially for women,” she told the audience. “Anything to do with our sexual organs or reproduction system has been pushed away and not been talked about. We have not been encouraged to share our experience.”
Added Lakshmi: “If I think about my adult life in the last 20 years, I would say that the most significant moments of my life have always sprung from when I have shared some story [or] when I have listened to a story from someone else.”
If you or someone you care about is affected by sexual violence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).