Padma Lakshmi revealed she was raped by her then 23-year-old boyfriend when she was just 16


Padma Lakshmi is reflecting on a painful experience from her past.

In a personal essay written to her 5-year-old self as part of the CBS News series Note to Self, the Top Chef host recalled the fear she felt after being sexually assaulted and raped as a young girl.

“Your voice won’t be heard by those who are supposed to love and protect you,” she wrote. “At age seven, you will be molested. You will use words to call it out, but you’ll think those words don’t matter because life will go on as if nothing happened. The sovereignty of your body will be violated again. You will be raped at 16.”

She continued: “By then, you’ll be silenced into submission and it will take you decades to find your voice. But you, you bury all that, somewhere deep. You’ll chisel a life for yourself, out of thin air and carry on as if nothing ever happened. You’re resilient, though I know you’re hurting inside. Just like your mother before you. But watching her you learn a lot.”

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Lakshmi, 48, wrote that she found comfort in cooking and used her time in the kitchen as a way to escape her pain.

“For comfort, you will cook. It comes really easily to you, and the kitchen has always been your happy place,” she wrote. “You’ll realize along the way you are of value. Pads, you won’t just survive, you’ll flourish.”

Lakshmi first bravely came forward with her #MeToo story in a New York Times op-ed in September, when she revealed she was raped by her 23-year-old boyfriend. She told PEOPLE she was thinking about her 9-year-old daughter Krishna when she decided to speak out.

“I wanted to open up the discussion because I didn’t want this to ever happen to my daughter, or to anybody’s daughter,” she said. “Any colleague, any girlfriend … so many people who watch Top Chef are tweens and teenagers and young people. I just thought, ‘Even if three fans of mine who see this read this and it helps them, it’s worth it.'”

In her personal essay for CBS, Lakshmi also recalled how having her daughter changed her life and brought her the peace she had long been searching for.

“One day a songbird will flutter in your belly. And life begins anew. You’ll be a mom and your heart will burst with a happiness you’ve never known or thought possible,” she wrote. “You’ll see that this is the belonging that you’ve always searched for all your life. You will finally know peace. You will finally exhale.”