Ellen DeGeneres is speaking up about a traumatic event in her life: being sexually assaulted by her stepfather as a young teenager.
The 61-year-old talk show host said she was molested by her mother’s husband during a yet-to-be-released interview with David Letterman for his Netflix show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman.” The series’ second season premieres on Friday, and in one episode, DeGeneres shares her story, Entertainment Tonight reports.
Her mother, Betty, married “a very bad man” when she was a teen, DeGeneres explained. Shortly afterward came her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and resulting mastectomy, which DeGeneres said her stepfather used as an excuse to grope and molest her.
“He told me when she was out of town that he’d felt a lump in her breast and needed to feel my breasts because he didn’t want to upset her, but he needed to feel mine,” she recalled. “He convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time.”
She went on to say that she was “angry” at herself at the age of “15 or 16,” for being “too weak” to stand up to her stepfather, but she explained that she was telling her story as an adult in the hopes of helping others.
“It’s a really horrible, horrible story and the only reason I’m actually going to go into detail about it is because I want other girls to not ever let someone do that,” she said.
DeGeneres previously opened up about her stepfather’s alleged abuse during an interview with Allure magazine in 2005, where she recalled him groping her and, on another occasion, her having to flee from her bedroom because he was trying to force his way inside.
“I had to kick a window out and escape and sleep in a hospital all night long,” she told the magazine, according to CBS News.
She recounted that experience for the Netflix show, telling Letterman, “He tries to break my door down, and I kicked the window out and ran 'cause I knew it was going to go more to something. And I didn’t want to tell my mother because I was protecting her and I knew that would ruin her happiness.”
DeGeneres’ stepfather is now dead, according to CBS News. The talk show host says that she tried to tell her mother about the abuse years after it happened, but she didn't believe her at the time. DeGeneres’ mother stayed in a relationship with him for nearly 20 years before ending the marriage because his stories about the alleged abuse were inconsistent, Entertainment Tonight reports.
“I always have taken care of her my whole life. So I just kept taking care of her. I didn’t really let it get to me,” DeGeneres said of her mother. “Until recently, I kind of went, ‘I wish I would have been better taken care of. I wish she would have believed me.’ And she’s apologetic, but, you know.”
DeGeneres also told Letterman that she hopes her story will inspire other women.
“We [women] just don’t feel like we’re worthy, or we’re scared to have a voice, and we’re scared to say no. That’s the only reason I think it’s important to talk about it because there’s so many young girls and it doesn’t matter how old you are,” she said. “When I see people speaking out, especially now, it angers me when victims aren’t believed, because we just don’t make stuff up. And I like men, but there are so many men that get away with so much.’
“It is just time for us to have a voice,” she continued. “It’s time for us to have power.”
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