Actress Reese Witherspoon has revealed that she was sexually assaulted by a director when she was 16 years old, the latest in a series of claims about abuse in the film 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,” Witherspoon said at an event in Beverley Hills this week. “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, honestly, the guilt for not speaking up earlier.”
She divulged, “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, honestly, the guilt for not speaking up earlier.”
Witherspoon, who debuted on the silver screen at 15, 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.”
The Academy Award-winning actress went on to claim that the incident was just one of a number of times she had been sexually abused throughout her career.
“I wish that I could tell you that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly it wasn’t,” she said. “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.”
Witherspoon’s revelation adds further weight to claims that Hollywood suffers from an underlying problem of sexual harassment and abuse after a bombshell report from The New York Times revealed that movie executive Harvey Weinstein had sexually assaulted, and consequently paid off, multiple women over two decades.
Since the allegations emerged, at least five women have accused Weinstein of rape, while over 30 women have claimed to be victims of sexual harassment, including actresses Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rose McGowan.