The talk show host's mom implores others to believe survivors who come forward with their stories

By Claudia Harmata
May 31, 2019 10:07 AM

Ellen DeGeneres‘ mom is speaking out after the host opened up about the sexual abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her stepfather.

Betty DeGeneres told the Today show in a statement that she lives with regret for not listening to her daughter when she first came forward with the alleged abuse.

“I know that one of the hardest things to do is speak up after being sexually abused,” Betty said in a statement to Today. “I love my daughter and I wish had the capacity to listen to her when she told me what happened.”

“I live with that regret, and I wouldn’t want that for any other parent,” she added, asking people to believe survivors who come forward with their stories. “If someone in your life has the courage to speak out, please believe them.”

Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ellen, 61 — who first shared her story in an interview with Allure in 2005 — talks about the situation in a new interview for David Letterman‘s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, recalling that her mother married a “very bad man” when Ellen was a teenager.

In the interview — now available on Netflix — DeGeneres explains that at the time, her mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and had one of her breasts removed. DeGeneres says her stepfather used this information to sexually assault her.

“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,” she tells Letterman.

DeGeneres says she eventually told her mom, who didn’t believe her at the time.

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“I’m angry at myself because, you know, I didn’t — I was too weak to stand up to — I was 15 or 16,” she says in the interview. “I mean, 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 hopes that sharing her story will inspire other survivors to come forward with their own, taking back the agency that their perpetrators tried to steal.

“We [women] just don’t feel like we’re worthy, or we’re scared to have a voice, and we’re scared to say no,” she says.

“It is just time for us to have a voice,” she adds. “It’s time for us to have power.”