After hearing countless stories of sexual harassment and assault tied to Harvey Weinstein, Reese Witherspoon felt it was important to come forward and share her own story of being assaulted by a director at 16. Speaking to a roomful of actresses at the Elle Women in Hollywood event, sponsored by Calvin Klein and L’Oréal Paris, the 41-year-old mom of three recounted a horrifying experience.
“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,” the actress said at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. “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,” she continued.
— Carly Mallenbaum (@ThatGirlCarly) October 17, 2017
“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.”
“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.”
“I have just spoken to so many actresses and writers, particularly women, who have had similar experiences and many of them have bravely gone public with their stories. That truth is very encouraging to me and everyone out there in the world because you can only heal by telling the truth.”
At first some of Witherspoon's fans were surprised that she didn't speak out last week after The New York Times and New Yorker articles. Though she had not worked with Harvey Weinstein over the years she has been a leading voice when speaking about the need for female leaders in Hollywood. After creating two of her own production companies — Pacific Standard and Hello Sunshine — she specifically sought out films for women. Some of those films included Gone Girl, Wild and Big Little Lies.
When she took the stage to accept an award at Glamour's Women of the Year event in 2015, she told women: "I want everybody to close their eyes and think of a dirty word, like a really dirty word. Now open your eyes. Was any of your words ambition? I didn't think so. See, I just kind of started wondering lately why female ambition is a trait that people are so afraid of. Why do people have prejudiced opinions about women who accomplish things? Why is that perceived as a negative?"
Many fans felt encouraged by Witherspoon's open and honest account of her assault as a teenager. Like Jennifer Lawrence and Kristen Stewart, who also spoke at the event, the Oscar-winning actress gave women a voice last night.
Are you surprised it took this long for women in Hollywood to come out and speak about sexual harassment and assault? Let us know your take in the comments section below.