Reese Witherspoon Reveals How Leaving an Abusive Relationship Transformed Her Life

“I didn’t have self-esteem. I’m a different person now and it’s part of the reason I can stand up and say, ‘Yes, I’m ambitious’ — because someone tried to take that from me before.”

While most of Hollywood is swirling with sexual assault accusations these days, Reese Witherspoon is sharing her story of escaping a different kind of abuse.

In an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s “SuperSoul Sunday” podcasts, the 41-year-old revealed that the most difficult decision she’s had to make to fulfill her destiny was leaving an abusive relationship.

“I could never be the person I am today,” Witherspoon says of her breaking free from the psychological and verbal abuse. “It changed who I was on a cellular level, the fact that I stood up for myself.”

Talking with Winfrey and the pair’s “A Wrinkle in Time” co-star, Mindy Kaling, Witherspoon recalls the moment she made the courageous decision to leave the relationship.

“A line got drawn in the sand and it got crossed, and my brain just switched,” the actress said. “I knew it was going to be very difficult, but I just couldn’t go any further. It was profound and I was young, really young.”

Witherspoon explains that while leaving an abusive relationship is never easy, it is the reason she’s able to stand before people today, a confident and ambitious woman.

“I didn’t have self-esteem. I’m a different person now and it’s part of the reason I can stand up and say, ‘Yes, I’m ambitious’—because someone tried to take that from me before,” she says of her abuser.

It was her firsthand experience with abuse that prompted Witherspoon’s decision to produce and star in the Emmy-winning HBO series, “Big Little Lies.” The hit drama features a range of domestic abuse throughout its storyline—something that hits home for not only Witherspoon but also each of her cohorts on the show.

She told Winfrey that as the cast gathered around and shared their stories, “There wasn’t a woman there that hadn’t been affected by abuse.”

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It’s an unfathomable, but true statement, as Oprah proved by sharing her own experience.

The talk-show mogul explains how she made inner-vows to never let a man hit her. But the more she zoned in on never allowing a man to hit her, the more blind she became to the other forms of abuse that were plaguing her relationship and self-esteem.

“I had become that woman, who would allow myself to be psychologically, verbally assaulted,” she said, adding that there was no difference between that and “actually being hit.”

Witherspoon spoke into Winfrey’s experience saying, “There’s a range of abuse, you know there’s verbal, there’s psychological…there’s so many other things than physical that can be completely detrimental to your self-worth, your self-esteem, and your progress.”

She hopes in speaking out about her experience, and further making it a talked-about topic with her award-winning series, more women will be empowered to find a way out. It’s the kind of support the actress says she felt for the first time in her entire career back in October during Harvey Weinstein’s fall from Hollywood power.

“After hearing all the stories these past few days and hearing these brave women speak up tonight about things that we’re kind of told to sweep under the rug and not to talk about, it’s made me want to speak up and speak up loudly,” she said in a statement, “because I actually felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career.”

If you or someone you know is stuck in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or visit their website where you can chat online 24/7 with a representative who can help. 

Bri Lamm
Bri is an outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure. She lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese in between capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras.

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