"If someone in your life has the courage to speak out, please believe them," the talk show host's mother, Betty DeGeneres said.
The one thing that every mother hopes is for their son or daughter to have the strength to come up to them and not hesitate to share the things that happened to them, no matter how painful, embarrassing, scary, or shameful it was for them. As a parent, you especially want to protect your children from sexual assault because those experiences can scar them for the rest of their life.
When Ellen DeGeneres finally got the courage to tell her mother, Betty DeGeneres, about how she was sexually assaulted as a teenager, she didn't believe her at the time. Now, it's a regret that Betty DeGeneres has to live with for the rest of her life.
"I know now that one of the hardest things to do is speak up after being sexually abused," BettyDeGeneres said in a statement to NBC News, according to Today. "I love my daughter, and I wish I had the capacity to listen to her when she told me what happened."
Ellen DeGeneres was about 15 or 16 when the sexual assault happened and thought of keeping it from her mother at first; making things worse was the fact that the person who assaulted her was her own stepfather. Her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and she had a mastectomy, which was the reasoning that her stepfather used.
When Ellen DeGeneres spoke about it with David Letterman on the show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, she said, "He told me when she was out of town that he'd felt a lump in her breast and needed to feel my breasts. Anyway, he convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time."
It took her years before she could finally gather the courage to tell her mother. But what made things more painful was seeing her mother go on to stay with him for years after that. "I should never have protected her. I should have protected myself and I didn’t tell her for a few years and then I told her," Ellen DeGeneres said. "And then she didn't believe me, and then she stayed with him for 18 more years. And finally left him because he'd changed the story so many times."
Although Ellen DeGeneres wanted nothing more than for her mother to believe her, she still shares a relationship with her. Her mother has even appeared on her talk show several times as well. Betty DeGeneres has even written a book titled, Love, Ellen.
But there will always be that regret at the back of her mind for not having believed her daughter, while Ellen DeGeneres would always feel the pain of her own mother not being a source of comfort through something so difficult. "I didn’t really let it get to me. Until recently, I kind of went, 'I wish I would have been better-taken care of. I wish she would have believed me.' And she’s apologetic, but, you know,” Ellen DeGeneres said.
The main thing that Ellen DeGeneres hopes her story will do is empower women to come forward and speak up about any injustice that happens to them and not hesitate to speak about any incident of sexual assault. According to E! Online, on the interview, Ellen said, "What most women do is, we just don't feel like we have a voice," DeGeneres says. "And that's the only reason that this is the first time I've ever talked about this to anyone other than my friends. We just don't feel like we're worthy, or we're scared to have a voice and we're scared to say 'no.'"
Betty DeGeneres, knowing how heavy the guilt is, hopes that no parent would ever have to experience what she does. She said in her statement, "I live with that regret, and I wouldn’t want that for any other parent." She even urged people to be more understanding of people who speak out about the injustice done to them and said, "If someone in your life has the courage to speak out, please believe them."