Betty DeGeneres, the mother of Ellen DeGeneres, gave a public statement after her daughter offered new and painful details of being sexually abused by her stepfather.
Earlier this week, Entertainment Tonight reported that in an upcoming episode of Netflix’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman,” Ellen describes the alleged abuse she endured as a teen, and reveals that her mother didn’t believe her when she finally confided in her.
“I know now that one of the hardest things to do is speak up after being sexually abused,” her mother told Today Friday. “I love my daughter, and I wish I had the capacity to listen to her when she told me what happened.”
She added, “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.”
Last year, the 61-year-old comedian and talk show host shared that she was a survivor of sexual abuse on her show. Her revelation occurred shortly after professor Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her sexual assault allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
In her upcoming conversation with Letterman, Ellen goes into greater detail about the abuse and how it began.
According to Ellen, her mother had a mastectomy after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis when Ellen was a teenager, and her stepfather exploited the situation.
“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,” Ellen said, per ET. “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.”
Ellen said that during one incident her stepfather tried to break down a door and she escaped by fleeing out a window.
She also said that she didn’t tell her mother about the abuse until years later and Betty didn’t believe her. Betty stayed married to Ellen’s stepfather, now deceased, for 18 more years. She ultimately left him after his versions of incidents involving Ellen kept changing.
“I’m angry at myself because, you know, I didn’t — I was too weak to stand up to — I was 15 or 16,” Ellen told Letterman. “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.”
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.