Daytime talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres is speaking about the sexual abuse she says she suffered as a teen at the hands of her stepfather.
DeGeneres, 61, recalls in "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman," premiering Friday on Netflix, that following her mother Betty's mastectomy in the mid-1970s, DeGeneres' stepfather "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. …I didn't know about bodies, I don't know that breasts are all different. Anyway, he convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts. And then he tries to do it again another time."
She goes on tell Letterman that the man — Betty's third husband, the late Roy H. Grussendorf, whom Betty married in 1974 when Ellen was 16 — tried at another point "to break my door down and I kicked the window out and ran." She says she did not initially tell her mother "because I was protecting her and I knew that would ruin her happiness." But, she adds, "I should never have protected her. I should have protected myself. And I didn't tell her for a few years and then I told her. And then she didn't believe me, and then she stayed with him for 18 more years — and finally left him because he'd changed the story so many times."
DeGeneres says the abuse left her "angry at myself because … I was too weak to stand up to [him]. I was, 15 or 16.” While she later tells Letterman, "This is the first time I've ever talked about this to anyone other than my friends," DeGeneres had first revealed the abuse to Allure magazine in 2005, recalling it happening at "16 or 17." She additionally noted at the time, "People I've confided in about this before say, 'Oh, that's why you're a lesbian.' But I was a lesbian way before that. My earliest memories are of being a lesbian."
The Emmy Award-winner is discussing it publicly again, she tells Letterman, because "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. It is just time for us to have a voice; it's time for us to have power."