Reese Witherspoon says she was sexually assaulted at 16

Naomi Gordon
Photo credit: Getty

From Digital Spy

Reese Witherspoon is the latest star to speak out about her experience of sexual harassment in Hollywood, and has claimed that she was just 16 when she was sexually assaulted for the first time – but not the last.

The Big Little Lies star was discussing women's experiences in the film industry at the Elle Women in Hollywood event on Monday (October 16) in the wake of the sexual misconduct claims being made against film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

"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," the Oscar-winning actress said at the event (via Elle).

Photo credit: Kopaloff/FilmMagic

[Reese Witherspoon with daughter Ava at the 2017 Elle Women in Hollywood event]

She said that the harrowing incidents have come back to haunt her now that other women and men are sharing their stories of assault in the industry, and feels a great deal of guilt "for not speaking up earlier".

Witherspoon also claimed that she has had "multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault" throughout her career, which began when she was in her teens.

"[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," she said. "And I wish that I could tell you that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly it wasn't. I've had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault and I don't speak about them very often.

"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."

Photo credit: Getty Images

She added: "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.

"That truth is very encouraging to me and everyone out there in the world because you can only heal by telling the truth.

"I feel really, really encouraged that there will be 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. It makes me so sad to talk about these issues, but I would be remiss not to."

Witherspoon's comments come after a New York Times report into the alleged behaviour of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

He has faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct over the last week and a half, and high-profile Hollywood stars including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, Cara Delevingne and Ashley Judd are among those who have gone on record.

A spokesperson for Weinstein has said: "Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein."

In the last week, Weinstein has been fired from his own production company and his wife, fashion designer Georgina Chapman, has confirmed that she has separated from him.

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