Reese Witherspoon breaks down while speaking about her sexual assault by a director at 16 during Time’s Up panel with America Ferrera, Shonda Rhimes, Natalie Portman, and host Oprah.
The actress says that attempting to process the crime which was committed against her was all too overwhelming for a child, telling Oprah: “I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly, and I found it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate.”
“A lot of the feelings I’ve been having anxiety about, about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier or taking action, true disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger that I felt at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment.”
Tragically, 41-year-old Reese reveals that the assault at 16 was just one incident in her attempt to carve out a career in Hollywood, adding: “I wish I could tell you that that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly, it wasn’t.”
The acclaimed actress who has been a key player in Hollywood’s #TimesUp campaign admits that breaking her silence, while far from easy, was a necessary hardship.
“As you can see I’m very emotional about it but I keep going back,” she told Oprah.
Reflecting on a proverb which has helped guide her in the months following the Weinstein scandal, the mother-of-three said she knew it was time to come forward with her lived experiences if anything was going to change within the industry.
“Somebody sent me this Elie Wiesel quote that said, ‘Silence helps the tormentors. It doesn’t help the tormented, and neutrality helps the oppressors not the oppressed.'”
“And there’s moments that you have to evaluate whether silence is going to be your only option and in certain times that was our only option, but now is not that time.”
Natalie Portman, America Ferrera, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Shonda Rhimes joined Reese on the CBS show.