Reese Witherspoon has revealed she was sexually assaulted aged 16 as Hollywood stars attempt to end years of silence in their industry around the issue.
The Legally Blonde actress, 41, spoke up at the Elle Women in Hollywood event on Monday night, saying the attack was the first – but not the last – she has suffered. She also struck out at the agents and producers around her at the time ‘who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment.’
Witherspoon is just the latest in a long line of stars and members of the public to share their stories of abuse in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations. Speaking in front of her 18-year-old daughter Ava Phillippe, Witherspoon said: ‘[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.
‘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 went on to urge others to go public with their cases of abuse – both for the sake of the future generation of actresses but also themselves, as admitting the truth will allow them to ‘heal’.
She continued: ‘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.’
While Witherspoon did not go into detail about the attack, it would have happened some time in 1992 or early in 1993 as she was just making a name for herself.
In 1992 she earned her third named movie credit, in a TV film called Desperate Choices: To Save My Child.
The following year she starred in A Far Off Place, Jack The Bear, and TV mini-series Return To Lonesome Dove.
Reese spoke out about the abuse of women in Hollywood at the event alongside Jennifer Lawrence who slammed Weinstein’s behaviour as ‘inexcusable’ last week.
In her own speech, the Hunger Games star revealed she was once forced by a female director to partake in a naked line-up with five other women, who were ‘much, much skinnier’ than her. She then revealed she was asked to use the incident to lose weight, revealing onstage: ‘After that degrading and humiliating line-up, the female producer told me I should use the naked photos of myself as inspiration for my diet.’ America Ferrera also spoke out about sexual abuse on Monday, saying she was assaulted aged nine by a ‘grown man’ she had to see for years afterward.
Photo Credit- Matt Baron