Reese Witherspoon has revealed that she was sexually assaulted by a director at the age of 16. The Oscar winner made the revelation while giving a speech at the Elle Women in Hollywood event sponsored by Calvin Klein and L’Oréal Paris on Monday, October 16.
“I didn’t sleep at all last night. This is gonna be a real emotional rollercoaster,” the 41-year-old actress began. “I just want to say that this has just been a really hard week for women in Hollywood, for women all over the world, for men and a lot of situations and a lot of industries that are forced to remember and relive a lot of ugly truths.”
“I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly and I found it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate a lot of the feelings I’ve been having, the anxiety about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier, for taking action,” she continued. “[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. I wish I could tell you that that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly, it wasn’t.”
The Big Little Lies star, who did not name the director, went on to say that she’s had “multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault” over the years and she doesn’t speak about them often.
“We’re kind of told to sweep it under the rug and not talk about. It’s made me want to speak up and speak up loudly because I felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career,” she said. “I’ve just spoken to so many actresses and writers and particularly women, who’ve had similar experiences and many of them have bravely gone public with their stories and that truth is very encouraging to me and to everyone out there in the world because you can only heal by telling the truth … I feel very encouraged by this group of people tonight who have created a community of people who are champions now of a new attitude towards harassment in our industry and every industry that’s going to address the abuse of power in this business.”
As previously reported, multiple women have come forward accusing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment spanning decades. His membership from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board was revoked, his wife Georgina Chapman left him and he is currently seeking treatment in Arizona.
The scandal has encouraged many more women to step forward. This week, actress Alyssa Milano began a powerful movement on social media, asking others who have been sexually assaulted or harassed to write #MeToo. In just a day or so, women have flooded social media with their own personal stories.
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