Ellen DeGeneres reveals her personal experience with sexual assault at the hands of her stepfather in an upcoming episode of David Letterman’s Netflix interview series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
In the interview, DeGeneres speaks about how, when she was “15 or 16″ years-old, her stepfather approached her just after her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, allegedly manipulating the situation in order to molest her. “He told me when [my mom] was out of town that he’d felt a lump in her breast and needed to feel my breasts,” she tells Letterman, according to a report from CNN. “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.”
This is not the first time that DeGeneres has spoken publicly about the assault — in a 2005 interview with Allure, the beloved daytime talk show host told the same story. But in her Letterman chat, DeGeneres says that she’s speaking up again in order to help young women learn to protect themselves. “I’m angry at myself because … I was too weak to stand up to, I was 15 or 16,” DeGeneres tells Letterman. “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.”
The star says that while she didn’t tell her mother what had happened right away, she eventually alerted her only to be met with skepticism. “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,” she says.
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Letterman revealed that he was “paralyzed” by DeGeneres’ admission during the interview, saying “I didn’t know what to do. Luckily in my life I’ve not been in that situation where somebody is telling me something horrifying. I don’t know – do I hug them? Do I touch them?”
DeGeneres’ interview with Letterman on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction will be available on Netflix starting Friday (May 31).