Reese Witherspoon Opens Up About Being Assaulted and Harassed As a Child Star

Reese Witherspoon continues to entertain and impress the public with her acting performances. The beloved star has taken on many different roles since her debut in the acting industry. Her reputation is a testimony to her versatile skill set and charming personality. Over the past few decades the public has gotten to know Witherspoon through Hollywood and some of her other work, but where did it all begin for the remarkable star?

Who is Reese Witherspoon?

Though Witherspoon grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, she was technically born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Many people may also be surprised to learn that “Reese” is not actually the famous actress’ first name given to her at birth.

“Laura Jean Reese Witherspoon” was born in March of 1976. Her parents worked in the medical field, and she was raised with her one sibling, David Witherspoon. The two have a very special bond together. In southern fashion, the two have long ago gotten into the habit of calling one another “Brother” and “Sister.”

Witherspoon attended Harpeth Hall, a private all-girls high school. During her formative years, Witherspoon was able to expand on her love for literature and storytelling.

However, that wasn’t all that she was known for. One of her former teachers recalled Witherspoon to be a “funny and fierce” student. She took her studies seriously and was eager to point out social injustices, but she also was known to get herself involved in a prank or two.

In a recent interview, Witherspoon alluded to time during high school where she may have attempted to fill the soda machine with beer. Amidst doing the average things that most teenagers will do, Witherspoon managed to successfully begin building her career as an actor. 

Reese Witherspoon’s journey as an actress

Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon | Adrian Sanchez/Getty Images

When Witherspoon was a freshman in high school she went on a limb and answered an advertisement that was looking for extras. As fate would have it, Witherspoon ended up landing the lead role for The Man in the Moon.

Witherspoon struggled with deciding to pursue her passion for acting or to follow in her parents’ steps and studying something in the medical field. After receiving a noteworthy reward for her work in Freeway, she made the decision to postpone furthering her education for the moment.

Ultimately, it seems like Witherspoon made the right call. Her hard work and dedication paid off, and Witherspoon started appearing in films more frequently.

Witherspoon’s work in Pleasantville, Election, and Cruel Intentions put both her name and her career on the map. The public couldn’t get enough of Witherspoon when Legally Blonde was released in 2001. 

However, more recently, Witherspoon has been blowing the public and media away by a storm. In 2012 a source listed Witherspoon as a “has-been” — and they had no idea how incredibly wrong they were.

Witherspoon wanted more control over the roles and narratives being told in Hollywood, and on that note, she started her own production company. Witherspoon took on titles like Gone Girl and Wild and began showing the world what she is truly made of. When Witherspoon began working on Big Little Lies there was no question about her intentions or potential.

HBO’s premiere of The Morning Show reinforced Witherspoon’s ambitious ideology. Hulu recently released Little Fires Everywhere, one of Witherspoon’s more recent projects that she has been diligently working on. 

What did Reese Witherspoon recently reveal about being a child star? 

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Witherspoon was questioned on the difficulties and dangers of being a child star. From getting your hopes up to having a healthy sense of ambition, navigating Hollywood is no easy feat for a child star.

However, what Witherspoon shed light on was a much graver issue. Witherspoon revealed she was assaulted by one of her directors at the age of 16. She also shared that this was not an isolated incident, and her silence was an unspoken condition of her employment.

“Bad things happened to me,” said the actress. “I was assaulted, harassed. It wasn’t isolated.”

The actress spoke about how disheartening it was during her times as a young actor to so sparingly see any fellow women on the sets that she was working. Witherspoon’s actions and new role in Hollywood have already begun to initiate a much-needed change in Hollywood. 

Witherspoon has also been unfairly shamed for not speaking up about her assault.

“I recently had a journalist ask me about it,” shared the actress. “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.”

She added: “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. 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.”