Ellen DeGeneres is known for her humor. She’s always one to make others feel better about themselves and saves them when they’re down, but in a new interview with David Letterman, the talk show host revealed that when she was a teenager, she was the one who needed saving.
DeGeneres will be on Letterman’s new season of My Next Guess Needs No Introduction, where she revealed that when she was a teenager, her step-father sexually assaulted her, using the news of her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. The man, who DeGeneres refused to name, was married to her mom Betty, and has since passed away.
“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 told Letterman. “…He convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time.”
The iconic comedian also said that he made her lie down to assault her, saying that’s how he supposedly “discovered” her mother’s breast cancer. Despite the assault happening more than four decades ago, DeGeneres is still upset with herself for allowing the situation to happen.
“I’m angry at myself because, you know, I didn’t — I was too weak to stand up to — I was 15 or 16,” Ellen admits. “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 is famously close with her mother, but she’s now realizing that things should have been different. At the time, she didn’t tell her mother about the assault until years later. Even still, her mother didn’t believe her, and remained married to the man for 18 years. Later, Betty divorced the man after his story kept changing.
“I always have taken care of her my whole life,” DeGeneres said of her relationship with her mother. “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…”
DeGeneres says that her reason for sharing the story now is so that other women know it’s okay to speak out about their experiences.
“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 told Letterman. “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.”
Seeing someone who is usually so humorous become so serious tells you how important this situation is to DeGeneres. I hope she has been able to heal, or at least find the help she needs.