Nadiya Hussain has revealed that she was sexually assaulted by a relative in Bangladesh when she was five years old.
The Bake Off star-turned-TV celebrity, 34, told The Mail on Sunday that 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.
One evening she tried to overdose on tablets but was interrupted by the news that her mother was pregnant with her brother, Shak.
She said: “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 for ever.”
The chef – who writes about the attack in Bangladesh in her forthcoming memoir Finding My Voice – said she only fully understood what had happened when she learned about sex in a biology class. The realisation 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. 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.”
Hussain also revealed 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.”
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.”
Hussain rose to fame after winning the BBC’s The Great British Bake Off in 2015. Since then, she has signed contracts with the BBC to host documentaries, has become a columnist for The Times Magazine, and has signed several publishing deals.