Reese Witherspoon has opened up about being sexually assaulted by a director when she was just 16, and how it was just one of many other experiences of harassment and assault throughout her career. Speaking at the Elle Women in Hollywood event on Monday, the Legally Blonde actress 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, the guilt for not speaking up earlier."
She 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. 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."
Reese spoke up shortly after several women accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault spanning over three decades. Reese acknowledged that she decided to speak up after several different women opened up about their experiences, adding: "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."
Ugly Betty star America Ferrera also recently opened up about a sexual assault that took place when she was just nine-years-old. The 33-year-old broke her silence on Instagram, writing: "First time I can remember being sexually assaulted I was 9 years old. I told no one and lived with the shame and guilt thinking all along that I, a 9 year old child, was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man. I had to see this man on a daily basis for years to come. He would smile at me and wave, and I would hurry past him, my blood running cold, my guts carrying the burden of what only he & I knew – that he expected me to shut my mouth and smile back."