She had no self-esteem after being in the abusive relationship, but coming out of it changed her into the person that she is today.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 13, 2020. It has since been updated.
Abuse can leave its mark forever in the minds of a victim no matter how many years pass by. Even if they move on after the efforts of their therapist, their own, and their loved ones, it remains in the subconscious mind, ready to pounce back at the darkest and lowest moments.
Actress Reese Witherspoon is an artist, an entrepreneur, an author, and a producer but she's also someone who's experienced abuse firsthand. In a conversation with Oprah Winfrey back in 2018, while promoting her film A Wrinkle in Time, Witherspoon divulged that she was in an abusive relationship when she was young and it changed her in many ways. To her, it was not just "verbal" but "psychological" as well.
She said, "A line got drawn in the sand, and it got crossed, and my brain just switched, and I knew it was going to be very difficult, but I just couldn’t go any further," as per Oprah.
Being a person who was still growing up into an individual, she learned a lot from it. She said, “But it was profound, and I was young. Really young… I was a different person too. It changed who I was on a cellular level, the fact that I stood up for myself. … Leaving those situations [isn’t] easy because it’s wrought with self-doubt, particularly if someone damages your self-esteem. … I didn’t have self-esteem, you know? And I’m a different person now.”
The Big Little Lies actress didn't reveal the name of her abuser but keep in mind that before she was married to CAA agent Jim Toth, she was married to Ryan Phillippe. The pair got divorced in 2006. They started dating in 1997 and tied the knot in 1999 when the actress was just 21. The couple had two kids Ava, 21, and Deacon, 17.
According to The Cut, Witherspoon could be talking about relationships she had even before she met Phillippe but the Cruel Intentions actor was accused of domestic violence by his ex-girlfriend Elsie Hewitt. The 21-year-old sued Phillippe claiming that he assaulted her in 2017 after a party. She claimed that the I Know What You Did Last Summer actor not only kicked her, but he also punched and threw her down the stairs.
Even though Phillippe denied all accusations against him saying that Hewitt was trying to extort him, TMZ later found that the actor was accused of another harassment case by his ex-fiancée Paulina Slagter back in 2017. The publication discovered that Slagter had filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department accusing Phillippe of abusing her verbally. She claimed that the actor sent her numerous "aggressive" and "extremely angry" texts and called her a "w****" after she broke off their engagement.
To avoid any more publicity, Slagter dropped the case and Phillippe never commented on her allegations.
As far as Witherspoon is concerned, the abuse she suffered while in a relationship wasn't the first time. She was 16 years old when she was harassed by a director. Joining the #metoomovement, the actress too opened that book she had kept closed for years.
At ELLE's 4th Annual Women in Hollywood event, recalling she said, "I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly, and I found it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate a lot of the feelings I’ve been having about anxiety, about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier."
She said that the only feeling she had against the director who assaulted her at such a young age was just pure "disgust." She added, "...anger that I felt at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment."
The Walk The Line actress then went on to reveal that the ordeal with the predatory director wasn't her last, but watching all the other women speak about their personal struggles made her "want to speak up and speak up loudly — because I actually felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career."
To her, vocalizing her experiences was the healing that she had been searching for years. She said, "I feel really, really encouraged that there will be a new normal," and added, "For the young women in this room, life is going to be different because we’re with you, we have your back and it makes me feel better."