Academy-award winning actress Reese Witherspoon announced last night that she was sexually assaulted by a movie director when she was 16, as more and more women keep coming forward about their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault, resulting from the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment bombshell reports.
“This has been a really hard week for women in Hollywood, for women all over the world, for men in a lot of situations and a lot of industries that are forced to remember and relive a lot of ugly truths,” Witherspoon said during her introduction for “Big Little Lies” co-star Laura Dern, at the Elle Women in Hollywood event in Los Angeles.
“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,” she continued. “A lot of the feelings I’ve been having about anxiety, about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier or taking action.”
The star, who won an Oscar in 2006 for her performance in “Walk the Line,” talked about the disgust she felt after being assaulted by a director when she was 16, which she said was not an isolated incident during her career.
“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, the things that we’re kind of told to sweep 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’ve ever felt in my entire career,” she shared.
Witherspoon went on to speak directly to the young women in the room, assuring them that the rest of Hollywood had their backs and that moving forward, part of the key to solving the industry’s issues with women, is to make sure that women hold power at every level of the process.
“If we can raise consciousness and really help create change, that’s what’s going to change this industry and change society,” Witherspoon concluded. “So I’m so sad that I have to talk about these issues, but it would be, I would be remiss not to.”
The “Legally Blonde” star is the latest celebrity to share her experience with sexual assault within the industry. Alyssa Milano’s #metoo social media campaign has revealed how widespread the problem is well beyond Hollywood.