Silence. This is the reaction from three out of four sexual assault victims according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Among the reasons victims don’t speak out: to protect the household or victim from further crimes by the offender. Often, victims don’t expect to be believed. And they’re not. Ellen DeGeneres is sharing her story of being sexually assaulted by her stepfather in hopes of giving other victims the courage to come forward.
In an episode of David Letterman’s Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction set to air on May 31, DeGeneres recalls how she felt at the time of the assault. “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 continues. “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.”
When the incident occurred, DeGeneres’ mother, Betty, was being treated for breast cancer. At the time, Betty was hospitalized to undergo a mastectomy.
DeGeneres’ stepfather convinced Ellen he needed to check for lumps in her breasts. She elaborated in a 2005 article for Allure magazine that at one point her stepfather attempted to break down her bedroom door, leading her to flee the house. Though she fled to her mother’s hospital room, she didn’t confide what had happened.
Recently, she explained to Entertainment Tonight (ET), ““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.”
Her message to other victims of sexual assault: “It is just time for us to have a voice. It’s time for us to have power.”
Parentology has featured several stories of how parents, adults, family members and friends can make children and teens feel comfortable to speak out. Here are some resources we hope will continue the conversation DeGeneres is so bravely opening up.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Teens and Children
What to Do if You Suspect Your Child Was Molested
How to Reduce the Risk of Molestation
How #MeToo Could Change Your Kids’ Sex Ed Classes
10 Most Common Reasons for Teenage Depression
What You Should Do if Your Child is Suicidal
Please note, girls and women aren’t the only victims of child abuse. Check out today’s article from Parentology about Boy Scouts who are speaking out years later about their own sexual assault.