A-list Hollywood actress Reese Witherspoon revealed, in a speech to Elle Magazine‘s Women in Hollywood Monday night, that she was sexually assaulted by a director at age 16 — and then forced to stay silent as a condition of employment.
Witherspoon dedicated her remarks to the women who have come forward to accuse Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, telling the crowd of her “guilt” for not speaking up about her own horrific encounters.
“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. “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, 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,” the Oscar winner continued.
Witherspoon went on to say that her encounter as a teenager was just the first of many such encounters across her career, and accused Hollywood culture of conspiring to conceal a culture of corruption.
“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,” Witherspoon told the crowd. “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, we now know, is hardly alone. According to reports, Harvey Weinstein, alone, assaulted more than 20 women across a span of three decades — and that’s just those who have come forward. Everyone from Ashley Judd to Angelina Jolie has said they’ve been forced to deal with Weinstein’s roving eyes and hands, and at least three women, inculding Italian actress Asia Argento, say Weinstein raped them, and then mandated their silence.