Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon revealed on Monday that she was sexually assaulted by a movie director, and then pressured into silence by producers, when she was just 16 years old. In a speech given at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards, the 41-year-old mother of three said that the incident was just one of “multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault” that she had endured during her career.
“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,” said Witherspoon, referring to the outpouring of stories from actresses who were allegedly assaulted by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. “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, about being 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.” she added. “And I wish that I could tell you that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly it wasn’t.”
The fact that so many women were now speaking out, Witherspoon said, had encouraged her “to speak up and speak loudly.”
“I actually felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career,” Witherspoon said. “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.” Watch her remarks below.
Speaking at the same event, Jennifer Lawrence opened up about her own experiences in which she was made to line up naked next to other actresses and told she needed to lose 15 pounds. Lawrence said that one movie producer even told her that she was “perfectly fuckable.” She also explained why she’s remained silent about those encounters until now. “I didn’t want to be a whistle-blower,” she said. “I didn’t want these embarrassing stories talked about in a magazine. I just wanted a career.” Watch part of her remarks in the video below.
Alyssa Milano, who once-costarred alongside Rose McGowan, who reached a settlement with Weinstein in 1997 and who suggested that he had raped her, in Charmed, has begun leading a #MeToo campaign on social media, through which people across the world, celebrities or otherwise, have been sharing their own experiences with sexual assault. If people who had been sexually harassed or assaulted spoke out by writing “me too,” Milano tweeted, “we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”