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Reese Witherspoon Sexually Assaulted at 16 by Hollywood Director

It has been quite a time in Hollywood since the New York Times published its exposé on Harvey Weinstein. A lot of actresses (and actors) have spoken up incidents they’ve had with Weinstein or other producers and directors. The latest actress to come forward is Reese Witherspoon, who says she was sexually assaulted by a director when she was 16, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“[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,” Witherspoon said. “And I wish 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.”

Earlier she reflected on the past week, in which multiple women in Hollywood have come forward about experiences of sexual harassment and assault, including some allegedly by disgraced Hollywood 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 that are forced to remember and relive a lot of ugly truths,” Witherspoon said. “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, about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier, for not taking action.”

The Weinstein thing was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to inappropriate behavior in Hollywood. There’s a culture of things being acceptable, just being “the way things are” that perpetuates this sort of behavior. Harvey Weinstein was hardly an isolated case. But Witherspoon sounds hopeful that this will be the moment when things will change.

“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 have your back and it makes me feel better because, gosh, it’s about time.… I’m so sad that I have to talk about these issues, but I would be remiss not to,” she said.

You might be asking yourself why these stories are still news. I feel like I haven’t written about anything other than Hollywood sexual assault since the Weinstein story broke. But the fact that there are so many individual stories to report on shows that this isn’t a series of isolated incidents or a few bad actors, it’s a systemic problem that’s been largely ignored for decades, and that in itself is newsworthy.

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