Celebrity chef: Nadiya Hussain, one of Britain’s best-loved celebrity chefs of Bangladeshi descent, has revealed that she was sexually abused by a relative in her ancestral homeland at the age of 5.
The harrowing incident left lasting mental scars that belie her cheerful public persona, she told the Daily Mail’s You magazine.
Now 34, she says the traumatic crime contributed to a suicide attempt at the age of ten and left her suffering panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for decades.
“No doubt that would have played a role in my PTSD, my panic disorder. It must have done because it’s a memory that has stayed with me forever,” she is cited as saying by Mail Online.
Nadiya, the winner of The Great British Bake Off, writes about the attack in Bangladesh in her forthcoming memoir Finding My Voice and said she only fully understood what had happened when she learned about sex in a biology class.
The realization made her throw up in a sink on the laboratory bench.
“I’ve only told my sisters recently and, growing up, I had a close friend at school who I told. It turned out a very similar thing had happened to her,” Nadiya said.
“It’s important to talk about it because it probably happens much more than we care to talk about. If that happened to my children, I don’t even want to say what I would do. I have no words.”
Nadiya also reveals how deeply she had been scarred by bullying at primary school by boys who dunked her head in the toilet and harassed her for being ‘too dark’, the Mail Online reports.
She says that she still cannot go to the toilet without flashbacks. ‘It was the most hideous thing ever. You feel like you’re drowning.’
As a child, she had felt extremely anxious without knowing why. When she was a teenager, she was finally diagnosed with a panic disorder and underwent cognitive behavior therapy at the suggestion of her GP.
But she gave up after one session, unable to afford the course. After the birth of her third child – a daughter, Maryam, who is now nine – the panic attacks grew worse.
By the time she entered Bake Off, aged 30 at her husband’s suggestion, Nadiya was used to coping with private anxiety masked by an outward persona.
Overnight, she was heralded as a new kind of role model: she was young, modern, British and also a hijab-wearing Muslim woman of color who grew up one of six children in a working-class Bangladeshi community in Luton and had an arranged marriage at the age of 20.
She has fronted several food programs, including a BBC Two series called Nadiya’s British Food Adventure, and was chosen to bake the Queen’s 90th birthday cake, the Mail Online reports.