Reese Witherspoon Opens up About Being 'Assaulted' and 'Harassed' as a Child Actor

Reese Witherspoon began her career at age 15 with a role in The Man on the Moon, quickly becoming one of the industry's go-to young actors before cementing her status an an A-lister. In a new interview with Vanity Fair, Witherspoon opened up about the early days of her career, revealing that she was "assaulted" and "harassed."

"Bad things happened to me," she said. "I was assaulted, harassed. It wasn't isolated. I recently had a journalist ask me about it. She said, 'Well, why didn't you speak up sooner?' And I thought, 'That's so interesting to talk to someone who experienced those things and then judge them for the way they decide to speak about them.' You tell your story in your own time when you're ready. But the shame that she tried to put on me was unreal, and then she wrote about how selfish I was for not bringing it up sooner."

"There wasn't a public reckoning 25 years ago when this stuff happened to me," Witherspoon explained. "There wasn't a forum to speak about it either. Social media has created a new way for people to express themselves that I didn't have. That's the great strength in power and numbers. I think we have a lot of judgment and that's unfortunate because we're all tenderfooted in these new times. We're trying to find our identity."

Witherspoon also discussed the changing perception of female sexuality and consent amid the #MeToo movement, sharing that she "grew up thinking you dress the way you want to be treated."

"I always had a thing about exploiting sexuality. When I came up in the business, there were all these men's magazines we were told to cater to," she said. "I was never in Maxim. I was never picked as a GQ girl, and I'm okay with that because that's not how I wanted to be viewed. That's not how I see myself. I always say, 'Funny doesn't sag.' I always just wanted to be funny, you know? And you can't be rendered obsolete if you just keep being funny. Guess what gets rendered obsolete? Your boobs go south, your face goes south, your a— goes south, but you can always be funny. And those are my idols, my heroes — Goldie, Holly Hunter, Diane Keaton, Nancy Meyers — smart and funny."

The mom of three gave credit to her 20-year-old daughter, Ava Phillippe, for helping to open her mind to a new way of thinking.

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"I can tell you what my daughter would say," she said when asked how women who discuss their experiences with harassment are photographed "with no top on under their jacket" for those same articles. "Why should a woman have to sublimate her own sexuality, because that's not her responsibility, the way she's viewed, right? Her sexuality shouldn't be diminished because she's having a conversation about consent. You should be able to be sexual, to display your sexuality, because consent is consent, no matter what."

Photo Credit: Getty / Axelle/Bauer-Griffin