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How Ellen DeGeneres and mom Betty's relationship went through the wringer of abuse, denial and regret

Although watching Betty and Ellen indulge in a little tete-a-tete during the talk show paints a perfect picture, there's much more to their relationship
UPDATED MAY 11, 2020
Betty and Ellen DeGeneres (Getty Images)
Betty and Ellen DeGeneres (Getty Images)

If you are a fan of the Ellen DeGeneres show, you would have realized by now that the host's mother Betty DeGeneres has been a regular on it, ever since it first aired in 2003. Throughout 13 seasons, we have seen Ellen surprise Betty on her birthdays with compilations of funny pictures, videos and, of course, loads of fun with the audience. 

Watching 89-year-old Betty and Ellen, 62, indulge in tete-a-tete paints a perfect picture. However, there's much more to their relationship, which was once based on denial and regret. 

Ellen has always been extremely vocal about everything she has been through in life. Be it coming out of the closet at a time when homosexuality was a taboo or the hardship she endured until she got an opportunity to put her talent on display, she has overcome one too many obstacles.

During her appearance in one of the episodes of 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman’, Ellen opened up about being sexually assaulted by her stepfather.

(Getty Images)

She revisited the disturbing memories when the stepfather used her mother's breast cancer as an excuse and touched her inappropriately. She said, "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. Again, 'cause I didn’t know about bodies, I don’t know that breasts are all different and.... 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."

However, she kept this hidden from Betty for years. "I should never have protected her. I should have 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. And finally left him because he'd changed the story so many times," she added. 

In a statement shared with NBC's 'Today' in March 2019, Betty commended Ellen for speaking out and expressed remorse for not believing her at the time.

Betty said, "I know now that one of the hardest things to do is speak up after being sexually abused. I love my daughter, and I wish I had the capacity to listen to her when she told me what happened."

"I live with that regret, and I wouldn’t want that for any other parent. If someone in your life has the courage to speak out, please believe them," she said.

Although the encounter with her stepfather has scarred her for life, Ellen has forgiven Betty and the moments they share with each other onscreen imply that they are rather happy to have worked out their differences. 

Betty has always been by Ellen’s side when the latter was scrutinized for being open about her sexuality. Besides being the first straight spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, Betty is also an active member of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). 

In Ellen's book 'Love, Ellen: A Mother-Daughter Journey', Betty talks at length about her own journey, where she became an advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.