During a recent interview with David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres revealed she experienced sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.
In a conversation taped for Letterman’s Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, DeGeneres explained how her stepfather used her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis as an excuse to fondle her. She was only in her mid-teens at the time.
“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,” DeGeneres said. “Again, because I didn’t know about bodies, I don’t know that breasts are all different. 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.”
According to Ellen, the abuse continued and escalated over time. “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.” She added: “I didn’t want to tell my mother ‘cause I was protecting her and I knew that would ruin her happiness. 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’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.”
DeGeneres also said that she told her mother, Betty, about the abuse, but Betty didn’t believe her. “I should have protected myself and I didn’t tell her for a few years and then I told her,” Ellen explained. “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.” Betty has since apologized for not believing Ellen sooner.
The episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction featuring Ellen DeGeneres lands on Netflix May 31.