Ellen DeGeneres thought she was protecting her mother by not speaking out about suffering sexual abuse at the hands of her stepdad.
The comedian, 61, opened up about her ordeal to talk show veteran David Letterman during an episode of his Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, and recalled her mother, Betty DeGeneres, marrying “a very bad man” when she was just a teenager.
“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,” Ellen shared. “I didn’t want to tell my mother ’cause I was protecting her and I knew that would ruin her happiness. I should never have protected her.”
The star, who has hosted The Ellen DeGeneres Show since it’s inception in 2003, has mentioned the abuse before, but has now opened up in detail, recalling: “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.”
Revealing how the abuse continued, the Finding Dory star added: “Again, ’cause I didn’t know about bodies, I don’t know that breasts are all different and… Anyway, he convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time, he tries to break my door down, and I kicked the window out and ran ’cause I knew it was going to go more to something (further).”
While the star revealed her mother “didn’t believe her” and stayed with her husband for a further 18 years, the couple finally split when she realised “he’d changed the story so many times”.
Despite the traumatic experiences, Ellen insisted the ordeal hasn’t affected the pair’s relationship, and confessed Betty is apologetic for not believing her daughter sooner.
“I wish I would have been better taken care of. I wish she would have believed me,” she reflected. “(But) 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… And she’s apologetic, but, you know…”