"I think if I had at the time named what happened to me as rape—and told others—I might have suffered less," writes Padma Lakshmi in a New York Times op-ed. "Looking back ... I let my rapist off the hook and I let my 16-year-old self down." Now an ACLU ambassador for immigration and women's rights, Lakshmi says she's been mulling why Brett Kavanaugh's accusers waited so long to reveal alleged sexual assaults. For Lakshmi, it took decades to tell intimate partners or therapists that her charming, handsome, college-student boyfriend—with whom she'd been intimate "to a point"—raped her one night after she fell asleep on his bed. She woke up to "a very sharp stabbing pain like a knife blade between my legs" and told him to stop, but he didn't.
Plagued by feelings of shock, self-blame, and a "disorienting" loss of control for having her virginity taken away, Lakshmi kept quiet. But "when I think about it now, I realize that by the time of this rape, I had already absorbed certain lessons," she writes—because her mother and stepfather had once sent her to India for a year as punishment for revealing that a relative had sexually assaulted her when she was seven. "The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out." But now she tells her 8-year-old daughter that "if anybody touches you ... you yell loud," and asks America to join her in the fight against sexual assault. "Those messages should be very clear as we consider whom we appoint to make decisions on the highest court of our land," she writes. Click for her full piece. (Read more rape stories.)