In her interview with David Letterman on his Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, Ellen DeGeneres revealed that her stepfather sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. DeGeneres discusses the subject in an episode premiering this Friday May 31 while discussing her relationship with her mother Betty DeGeneres. “She remarried a very bad man,” DeGeneres says. She goes on to describe feeling angry at herself for being “too weak to stand up” to him when she was “15 or 16.” “The only reason I’m going to go into detail about it is because I want other girls to not ever let someone do that,” DeGeneres says.
DeGeneres then describes how her mother had a breast removed due to breast cancer at the time and had a very sexual relationship with her stepfather, “which was also very uncomfortable for me.” “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,” she says. “He convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time.” DeGeneres then describes him trying to break her door down, and kicking out the window and running to get away from him. “I didn’t want to tell my mother because I was protecting her, and I knew that that would run her happiness, and she was happy with him even though he was a horrible man,” DeGeneres said, “and I should never have protected her. I should have protected myself.”
DeGeneres says that she didn’t tell her mom about her stepfather’s actions for a few years, and when she did tell her, her mother didn’t believe her. “And then she stayed with him for 18 more years,” she says. Her mother confronted her stepfather about the story, which he denied, and only finally left the man because “he changed the story so many times.” When Letterman asks how DeGeneres and her mother addressed that fissure in their relationship, she insists, “I always have taken care of her my whole life. So I just kept taking care of her. I didn’t really let it get to me. Until recently, I kind of went, ‘I wish I would have been better taken care of. I wish she would have believed me.’ And she’s apologetic, but, you know …”
DeGeneres previously discussed her experience in less detail in an interview with Allure in 2005 and in a 2018 Today show interview. Talking with Letterman, she said she wanted to talk about her stepfather’s actions because most women “don’t feel like we’re worthy, or we’re scared to have a voice, and we’re scared to say no.” “That’s the only reason I think it’s important to talk about,” she says, “because there’s so many young girls, and it doesn’t matter how old you are. And when I see people speaking out, especially now, it angers me when victims aren’t believed, because we just don’t make stuff up.” “I like men,” she adds, “but there are so many men that get away with so much. It is just time for us to have a voice. It’s time for us to have power.”