Allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein have opened the tap in Hollywood for women to come forward and share their stories. Actresses Reese Witherspoon and America Ferrara both revealed on Monday they were the victims of sexual assaults when they were younger.
Weinstein is now the subject of allegations from several women, ranging from harassment to rape. The mogul, through a spokesperson, has "unequivocally" denied "any allegations of non-consensual sex."
Witherspoon spoke Monday night at the 24th annual Elle Women in Hollywood awards held at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, California. The actress was there to introduce her "Big Little Lies" costar Laura Dern, who was an honoree. During her remarks, Witherspoon said the Weinstein scandal has been tough on her.
"I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly and I have found it hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate," she said. "A lot of the feelings I've been having about anxiety, about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier or taking action."
Witherspoon opened up about her "true disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger that I felt at the agents and anger at the agent and producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment."
"And I wish I could tell you that that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly, it wasn't," she said. "I've had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault, and I don't speak about them very often, but after hearing all the stories these past few days and hearing these brave women speak up tonight, the things that we're kind of told to sweep under the rug and not talk about, it's made me want to speak up and speak up loudly because I felt less alone this week than I've ever felt in my entire career."
"Ugly Betty" star America Ferrera posted a note on Instagram Monday saying she was sexually assaulted when she was a child. Ferrera used the #MeToo hashtag that became a war cry on Twitter over the weekend, when victims of sexual harassment and assault took to social media to share their stories. "First time I can remember being sexually assaulted I was 9-years-old," she wrote. "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."
The actress said she would "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 & I knew - that he expected me to shut my mouth and smile back," she wrote. Ferrera ended her Instagram post saying, "Ladies, let's break the silence so the next generation of girls won't have to live with this bulls**t."
At the Elle Women in Hollywood awards, honoree Jennifer Lawrence told of being pushed to lose 15 pounds in two weeks for a role and having to submit to a female producer who lined her and other actresses up nude and photographed them. Lawrence chose to draw strength from the many stories of harassment that are now being shared, she said.
"In all of the sadness I think it's been oddly unifying," she said. "It's so fundamental to the female experience to be mistreated and feel ashamed of it."