Ellen DeGeneres, one of the season 2 guests of Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, opened up to host David Letterman about being groped by her stepfather as a teen. By sharing her story, she hopes to help other victims of sexual assault come forward.
“That’s another thing where I’m angry at myself because, you know, I didn’t… I was too weak to stand up to… I was 15 or 16,” the daytime talk-show host says in the episode, one of five that will premiere Friday on Netflix. “It’s a really horrible, horrible story and the only reason I’m actually going to go into detail about it is because I want other girls to not ever let someone do that.”
DeGeneres explained to Letterman that, when she was a teen, her mother, Betty DeGeneres, married “a very bad man.” Soon after, Betty was diagnosed with breast cancer that resulted in the removal of one of her breasts. This man, DeGeneres continued, used her mother’s condition to sexually assault her.
“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 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 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.”
DeGeneres didn’t want to tell her mother about it at the time because, as she explained, she felt she was “protecting her” and “knew that that would ruin her happiness, and she was happy with him even though he was a horrible man.”
“I should never have protected her,” she reflected. “I should’ve protected myself, 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.” According to DeGeneres, her mother “finally left him” because “he changed his story so many times.”
The comedienne first spoke out about her stepfather in a 2005 interview with Allure magazine, as documented by CBS News, and again in 2018 with the Today show’s Savannah Guthrie (shown in the video below).
“What most women do is we just don’t feel like we have a voice… we just don’t feel like we’re worthy or we’re scared to have to have a voice and we’re scared to say no,” she told Letterman.
“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,” she added. “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.”