NEW DELHI : India’s top female news presenter has described how she was sexually abused as a young child, winning praise for speaking out on a subject often regarded as taboo in the socially conservative country.

Barkha Dutt said she had been abused by a “distant older relative” who had come to stay with the family, describing her attacker as a monster who had left her feeling “overcome by panic and disgust”.

“I finally told my mother that something terrible had happened,” the NDTV presenter wrote in her new book “This Unquiet Land”, extracts of which have been published on the Indian broadcaster’s website. “My assaulter was immediately thrown out of the house and I buried the awfulness of the memory in a deep, dark place that I hoped I would never have to revisit.”

Dutt said her experience was “hardly uncommon”, citing a 2007 government survey in which more than half of all children questioned said they had experienced some form of sexual abuse.

Many remained silent due to a “misplaced shame” that allowed the perpetrators to get away with their crimes, she wrote.

India was left reeling in 2012 after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi unleashed seething anger and protests about high levels of sexual violence against women.

Fans took to Twitter to praise Dutt’s courage in speaking out in a country where talk about sex of any sort is seen by many as taboo.

“Thanks for penning down these experiences. Will help others face up to it,” tweeted @MaanviNarcisa in response to the extract.

In it Dutt, an outspoken defender of women’s rights in India, also detailed abuse at the hands of a fellow student at university who tried to rape her in the early 1990s.

Determined not to be “a woman who would hide abuse because of a misplaced sense of embarrassment”, she complained to university authorities. But she said even her “progressive” female teachers advised her not to proceed, saying the university was unlikely to go ahead with a “he said she said” case.

Mumbai-based youth media website Homegrown also praised Dutt for speaking out.

“Voices like Barkha Dutt’s are more important than ever. Strong voices that keep the debate on the table,” it said.

Dutt, whose mother was a well-known journalist, came to prominence in 1999 for her reporting on the Kargil conflict in divided Kashmir.

She won one of India’s top civilian honours, the Padma Shri, for her reporting on the 2004 tsunami, and now hosts an award-winning Sunday talk show on NDTV.