In a candid conversation with David Letterman, Ellen Degeneres speaks out about being sexually assaulted by her stepfather, saying she hopes her story will encourage young girls not to suffer abuse in silence.
Degeneres, who appears in an upcoming episode of Letterman’s Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, tells the veteran host that the abuse began when she was a teen, after her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“He told me when [my mom] was out of town that he’d felt a lump in her breast and needed to feel my breasts,” she says, according to CNN. “Anyway, he convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time.”
This is not the first time that Degeneres has discussed this difficult chapter of her past. In 2005, she talked about the abuse in an interview with Allure. At the time, she also revealed that the situation escalated into “other things.” Once, her stepfather tried to break down the door to her bedroom, forcing her to kick out a window so she could escape. She spent the night in a hospital.
Speaking to Letterman, Degeneres says she is revisiting the abuse because she wants to encourage young women in similar situations to protect themselves. She says she did not tell her mother about the assaults for several years, in an effort to shield her. “And then she didn’t believe me,” Degeneres recalls, “and then she stayed with him for 18 more years and finally left him because he’d changed the story so many times.”
In the interview, which will air in full on Friday, Degeneres urges young women facing abuse to speak out. “I’m angry at myself because … I was too weak to stand up to [him],” she said. “It’s a really horrible, horrible story and the only reason I’m actually going to go into detail about it is because I want other girls to not ever let someone do that.”
Read more at CNN.