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#MeToo: Reese Witherspoon says a director sexually assaulted her when she was 16

Reese Witherspoon arrives at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards at the Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills on Monday. (Jordan Strauss  /Invision/Associated Press)
Reese Witherspoon arrives at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards at the Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills on Monday. (Jordan Strauss /Invision/Associated Press)

Stories of sexual assault have resonated throughout Hollywood in the weeks following the revelation of decades of harassment claims made against former super producer Harvey Weinstein. 

Monday night at the Elle Women in Hollywood event in Los Angeles, Reese Witherspoon added her tale to the mix. 

"This has been a really hard week for women in Hollywood, for women all over the world, for men in a lot of situations and a lot of industries that are forced to remember and relive a lot of ugly truths," Witherspoon said during her introduction for "Big Little Lies" co-star Laura Dern.

"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," she continued. "A lot of the feelings I’ve been having about anxiety, about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier or taking action."

The star, who won an Oscar for her performance in 2006's "Walk the Line," talked about the disgust she felt after being assaulted by a director when she was 16, which she said was not an isolated incident during her storied career.

"I’ve had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault, and I don't speak about them very often. But after hearing all the stories these past few days and hearing these brave women speak up tonight, the things that we're kind of told to sweep under the rug and not talk about, it's made me want to speak up and speak up loudly because I felt less alone this week than I've ever felt in my entire career," she shared.

Witherspoon went on to speak directly to the young women in the room, assuring them that the rest of Hollywood had their backs and that moving forward, part of the key to solving the industry's issues with women, is to make sure that women hold power at every level of the process.

"If we can raise consciousness and really help create change, that's what's going to change this industry and change society," Witherspoon concluded. "So I'm so sad that I have to talk about these issues, but it would be, I would be remiss not to."

The "Legally Blonde" star is the latest celebrity to share her experience with sexual assault within the industry. And Alyssa Milano's "Me Too" social media campaign has revealed how widespread the problem is well beyond Hollywood. 

Witherspoon's representatives did not immediately respond to The Times' request for comment Tuesday morning.

FULL COVERAGE: The Harvey Weinstein scandal »

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