Ellen DeGeneres Opens Up About Sexual Abuse By Her Stepfather

by Valerie Williams
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Ellen DeGeneres tells David Letterman about sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather

Talk show icon Ellen DeGeneres has spoken out in the past about being sexually assaulted as a teenager, and now, she’s sharing heartbreaking details about what happened on David Letterman’s show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

DeGeneres explains that when her mother Betty was diagnosed with breast cancer, her stepfather used the scary situation to molest her. She was only 15. “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 says, according to ET. “Again, ’cause I didn’t know about bodies, I don’t know that breasts are all different and … anyway, he convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time.”

DeGeneres says at one point, he was trying to break down her bedroom door, so she escaped out her window, because she knew “it was going to go more to something.”

She’s sharing her terrifying story now in the hopes of helping other young girls. “I’m angry at myself because, you know, I didn’t — I was too weak to stand up to — I was 15 or 16,” she says. “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.”

DeGeneres told her mother about the abuse but says that she didn’t believe her. She stayed married to him for another 18 years, eventually leaving him because he kept changing his story about the abuse. She still struggles with her mom’s reaction to the situation. “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. 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…”

In telling her story, DeGeneres wants women to know they can speak out — and say no. “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,” she says. “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. 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.”

Fans are grateful to DeGeneres for speaking out, and in turn, giving them a voice too.

Last fall, DeGeneres shared on her own show a few details of the abuse she suffered — and how important it is to believe survivors. “I was 15 and I had something happen to me,” DeGeneres said. “When I watched Dr. Ford — anyone who has had something happen to them, you just get so angry when someone doesn’t believe you or says, ‘Why did you wait so long?’”

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, DeGeneres echoes what so many women are feeling. “It is just time for us to have a voice. It’s time for us to have power.”