Ellen DeGeneres Opens Up About Being Sexually Assaulted as a Teenager

Talk show host shares her story of abuse in an interview with David Letterman

By Jess Cohen May 28, 2019 3:51 PMTags
Watch: Ellen DeGeneres Reveals She Was Sexually Assaulted as a Teen

Ellen DeGeneres has shared that she was sexually assaulted by her stepfather.

During the talk show host's interview on David Letterman's Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, DeGeneres says that she was assaulted by her stepfather when she was about 15 or 16. On the episode, airing May 31, DeGeneres talks about her mother, Betty DeGeneres, remarrying a "a very bad man" who hurt her.

"That's another thing that, you know, I'm angry at myself because....I was too weak to stand up—I was 15 or 16 and...I mean, it's a really horrible, horrible story and the only reason I'm actually gonna go into detail about it is because I want other girls to not, you know, ever let someone do that," DeGeneres tells Letterman.

"My mother had had breast cancer right after they got married," the 61-year-old star continues. "So she had a breast removed, and they had a very, very sexual relationship, which was also very uncomfortable for me. And 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."

"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, he tried to break my door down, and I kicked the window out and ran 'cause I knew it was gonna do–it was gonna go more to something," she recalls. "And I didn't want to tell my mother, 'cause I was protecting her and I knew that that would ruin her happiness."

DeGeneres says her mother "was happy with him" even though he "was a horrible man, and I should never have protected her."

"I should have protected myself," DeGeneres tells Letterman. "And I didn't tell her for a few years, and then I told her. And then she didn't believe me. And then she stayed with him for 18 more years. And finally left him because he'd changed the story so many times."

The Emmy winner explains that her mother did confront her stepfather "but he said I was lying."

"And then she...stayed with him," DeGeneres says. "So, that made me really angry."

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"What most women do is, we just don't feel like we have a voice," DeGeneres says. "And that's the only reason that this is the first time I've ever talked about this to anyone other than my friends. We just don't feel like we're worthy, or we're scared to have a voice and we're scared to say 'no.'"

"That first time, he really convinced me that he didn't want to upset her, and he really felt another lump, and he really would just like...and then when I didn't let him the next time, you know, it just...he just kept taunting me and pretending like he was coming at me all the time," she shares. "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, and 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. It's time for us to have power."

The second season of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman premieres Friday, May 31, on Netflix.

For free, confidential help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit rainn.org.