Ellen DeGeneres’ mother, Betty DeGeneres, says she regrets not believing her daughter when Ellen told her she had been sexually abused by her late stepfather as a teen.
“I know now that one of the hardest things to do is speak up after being sexually abused,” Betty DeGeneres said in a statement provided to NBC News through Ellen DeGeneres. “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 continued.
Representatives for Ellen DeGeneres did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Ellen DeGeneres detailed the abuse, and her mother’s reaction to her accusations, in an interview with David Letterman for his Netflix talk show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” The episode including that sitdown was provided to press ahead of its launch on the streaming service Friday.
The 61-year-old daytime host recounted when her mother married “a very bad man” as she described him to Letterman. She continued to say that right after marrying this person, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. DeGeneres said this man used that knowledge to assault her on multiple occasions.
“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,” DeGeneres said, noting that she was “15 or 16” at the time and that she was “too weak” to stand up to him. “It’s a really horrible, horrible story and the only reason I’m actually going to go into detail about it is because I want other girls to not ever let someone do that.”
She continued to say that she’s sharing her story in the hopes that it inspires other women to keep coming forward.
“That’s the only reason I think it’s important to talk about it because there’s so many young girls and it doesn’t matter how old you are. When I see people speaking out, especially now, it angers me when victims aren’t believed, because we just don’t make stuff up. And I like men, but there are so many men that get away with so much.”
DeGeneres had previously talked about the abuse in a 2005 interview with Allure magazine, according to People, during which she did not name the man but said he was dead.