Padma Lakshmi Reveals That She's A Survivor Of Childhood Sexual Abuse

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In a new interview with People, Padma Lakshmi speaks out about how she was sexually abused as a child, a horrifying ordeal she details in her new memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate.

Lakshmi describes how, at the age of 7, she was molested by a relative of her then-stepfather who she shared a bed with sometimes, due to the small size of her mother's two-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York. In her memoir, she writes that she woke up to his hand in her underpants, and he then placed her hand inside his. She was too young to know exactly what was going on, but she knew something was wrong. Looking back, she has no idea how often this happened, she told People, because she may have "slept through some incidents."

"Once you take a girl's innocence, you can never get it back," Lakshmi told People. "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," she writes in her memoir. "He should have been the one to go."

Lakshmi says in the interview that she doesn't think about the abuse often, but she explains that "it was a catalyst for a lot of things," specifically how she felt about her body and her ability to be open to the world. So why talk about it now? She says that this kind of sexual abuse happens "more than we think," and now that she has a daughter, that's something she considers more.

"I think of all those girls I pass on the street who are in elementary school," she says. "I think about my daughter's classmates or my daughter."

By sharing her story, Lakshmi is helping to remove the stigma of coming forward about sexual abuse, no matter how much time has passed. As she tells People: "If women like me don't talk about it, who will?"

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