Reese Witherspoon reveals she was sexually assaulted by a director when she was 16
Reese Witherspoon has revealed she was sexually assaulted when she was 16.
The Oscar-winning actress (41) opened up about her own experience this week after considering a "really hard week for women" in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Reese was attending the Elle Women in Hollywood event on Monday night alongside her 16-year-old daughter Ava Philippe, who was sitting front and centre while her mother gave a touching speech to some of the most influential women in the entertainment industry.
"This has been a really hard week for women in Hollywood, for women all over the world, and a lot of situations and a lot of industries are forced to remember and relive a lot of ugly truths," she began.
"I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly and I find it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate a lot of the feelings that I’ve been having about anxiety, honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier. [I feel] true disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment.
"And I wish that I could tell you that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly it wasn’t. I've had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault and I don’t speak about them very often."
Witherspoon said she was inspired to speak up after the bravery of so many women coming forward accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape. "Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein," he said in a statement.
"But after hearing all the stories these past few days and hearing these brave women speak up tonight about things that we’re kind of told to sweep under the rug and not to talk about, it’s made me want to speak up and speak up loudly because I actually felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career," she explains of her decision to speak now.
"I have just spoken to so many actresses and writers, particularly women, who have had similar experiences and many of them have bravely gone public with their stories. That truth is very encouraging to me and everyone out there in the world because you can only heal by telling the truth."
"I feel really, really encouraged that there will be a new normal. For the young women in this room, life is going to be different because we’re with you, we have your back and it makes me feel better. It makes me so sad to talk about these issues, but I would be remiss not to."
It has been a week of heartbreaking revelations as Ugly Betty star America Ferrera (33) revealed she was sexually assaulted when she was nine years old. She shared her story as part of the #MeToo movement, started by Alyssa Milano, in which women open up about their stories about sexual harassment or assault.
"First time I can remember being sexually assaulted I was nine-years-old. I told no one and lived with the shame and guilt thinking all along that I, a nine-year-old child, was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man," she wrote on Instagram.
"I had to see this man on a daily basis for years to come. He would smile at me and wave, and I would hurry past him, my blood running cold, my guts carrying the burden of what only he & I knew - that he expected me to shut my mouth and smile back."
"Ladies, let’s break the silence to the next generation of girls won’t have to live with this bulls**t."