Actress Alleges a Director Sexually Assaulted Her When She Was 16

Reese Witherspoon is one of many industry insiders to come forward now after the Weinstein scandal — with vivid recollections of abuse

Academy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon on Monday shared a story of sexual abuse that she says she suffered at the hands of a director when she was 16 years old.

“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 Elle Women in Hollywood event, which was also attended by other industry professionals, such as Jennifer Lawrence.

“I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly,” Witherspoon added, “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, for taking action.”

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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.”

The “Walk the Line” and “Legally Blonde” star — who is 41 and has three children — said she has had “multiple experiences” of harassment and assault since then. She said she wanted to go public after reading about other women’s stories in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

“I felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career.”

“I actually felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career,” said Witherspoon.

The actress added, “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 and it makes me feel better. It makes me so sad to talk about these issues, but I would be remiss not to.”

Related: Screenwriter on Weinstein Scandal: ‘Everybody Knew’

Witherspoon is, alas, just one of many to come forward recently with charges and stories of harassment and abuse faced within the industry. Jennifer Lawrence, America Ferrera, Rose McGowan, Terry Crews and many others have gone public in the wake of the explosive reports about Harvey Weinstein and his despicable behavior toward mostly young and upcoming actresses and others trying to make a livelihood for themselves.

Though these stories are difficult to hear and to absorb, it is encouraging to see artists such as Witherspoon feel more empowered to speak up. With the downfall of Weinstein, one hopes she and others who have spoken up now have an opportunity to take their industry back — and rid it of abusive hypocrites like Weinstein, who for too long thought they were untouchable and could do anything they pleased to anyone they encountered.