“This has been a really hard week for women in Hollywood, for women all over the world, and a lot of situations and a lot of industries are forced to remember and relive a lot of ugly truths,” Witherspoon told the audience, which included her 18-year-old daughter, Ava Phillippe. “I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly and I find it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate a lot of the feelings that I’ve been having about anxiety, honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier.”
The actress then revealed, "[I feel] true disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment."
While that was the first time Witherspoon remembers being sexually assaulted, she admitted that it wasn't the last. "I wish that I could tell you that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly it wasn’t," she said. "I’ve had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault and I don’t speak about them very often."
Witherspoon was compelled to tell her story after so seeing so many recently women speaking out about their own painful experiences.
"Hearing all the stories these past few days and hearing these brave women speak up tonight about things that we’re kind of told to sweep under the rug and not to talk about, it’s made me want to speak up and speak up loudly because I actually felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career," she expressed. "I have just spoken to so many actresses and writers, particularly women, who have had similar experiences and many of them have bravely gone public with their stories."
Witherspoon added, "That truth is very encouraging to me and everyone out there in the world because you can only heal by telling the truth."
The Big Little Lies star said she is "encouraged" that talking about sexual harassment and assault will create a "new normal."
"For the young women in this room, life is going to be different because we’re with you, we have your back and it makes me feel better," she declared. "It makes me so sad to talk about these issues, but I would be remiss not to."
Witherspoon isn't the only star to reveal she was a victim of sexual harassment as a teenager. Last week, Kate Beckinsale alleged on Instagram that she dodged Weinstein's sexual advances when she was 17.