On Friday, Betty released a statement that was read on the Today show, expressing regret over not initially believing her daughter. "I know now that one of the hardest things to do is speak up after being sexually abused. I love my daughter, and I wish I had the capacity to listen to her when she told me what happened," she said. "I live with that regret, and I wouldn’t want that for any other parent."
Betty, 89, concluded, "If someone in your life has the courage to speak out, please believe them."
In her interview with Letterman, Ellen recalled that just after her mother divorced her father and remarried, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had one of her breasts removed. Ellen said her mom's then-husband used this information to sexually assault her on several different occasions.
"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 61-year-old TV personality didn't tell her mother about what her stepfather had done until a few years later, but her mom did not believe her. Ellen said Betty stayed married to the man for 18 more years, but finally left him because he kept changing his story.
As for how her relationship with her mother -- who has appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on multiple occasions -- is now, she confessed, "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…"
Ellen hopes her story helps other victims of sexual assault come forward. "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 said. "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."
Ellen added, "It is just time for us to have a voice. It’s time for us to have power."