#MeToo: Reese Witherspoon and America Ferrera's stories of sexual abuse show how rampant the problem is

Hollywood sweetheart Reese Witherspoon was only 16, the first time she was sexually abused by a director, and the scars still haven't healed.

Speaking at the Elle Women in Hollywood event, Reese said, "[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 added: "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.”

But Reese added that after witnessing the outpouring of similar stories from women across the globe this week, it "made me want to speak up and speak up loudly".

In the dark shadow of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal, and the phenomenal solidarity and support behind the #WeToo movement, Reese says she has never felt less alone during this time.

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.”

Reese's revelation was not the only one today. Earlier, America Ferrera stated that she was first sexually assaulted when she was just nine years old.

"Me too. First time I can remember being sexually assaulted I was 9 years old," a note from the actress read.

"I told no one and lived with the shame and guilt thinking all along that I, a 9 year old child, was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man. I had to see this man on a daily basis for years to come. He would smile at me and wave, and I would hurry past him, my blood running cold, my guts carrying the burden of what only he and I knew—that he expected me to shut my mouth and smile back."

But Reese believes that the recent upheavals that have shaken the entertainment industry down to its roots, may be just the wake-up call the industry needs to clean up its act and become a safe space for young actors.

“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,” Reese concluded.

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