Reese Witherspoon revealed she was sexually assaulted at 16, in a powerful speech.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for ELLE.

Reese Witherspoon's three decades in Hollywood have been peppered with prestigious awards, a long list of blockbuster successes — and, she shared recently, several incidents of sexual assault at the hands of powerful men.

The A-lister was on stage at ELLE's Women in Hollywood event on Oct. 16, introducing her "Big Little Lies" co-star Laura Dern, when she revealed she's been sexually harassed numerous times throughout her career. One instance, she said, occurred when she was just 16 years old.

Inspired by the dozens of women who've come forward in recent days alleging disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein harassed, assaulted, or raped them, Witherspoon joined the chorus of those demanding more needs to be done.



"I didn’t sleep at all last night," Witherspoon began, reflecting on a difficult week of news for many survivors of sexual assault.

"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," Witherspoon told the crowd. "A lot of the feelings I’ve been having about anxiety, about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier or taking action. True disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger that I felt at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment."


Reese Witherspoon and her daughter Ava Phillipe at the ELLE Women in Hollywood event. Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for ELLE.

Witherspoon continued:

"I wish I could tell you that that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly, it wasn’t. 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."

Witherspoon instructed the room of Hollywood influencers on how to advance the cause in their own lines of work.

Namely, she said, they need to do whatever they can to help put more women in positions of power.

She continued (emphasis added):

"There’s a lot of people here who negotiate quite frequently with different companies and heads of companies, and I think maybe during your next negotiation, this is a really prudent time to ask important questions like, who are your top female executives? Do those women have green-light power? How many women are on the board of your company? How many women are in a key position of decision-making at your company? Asking questions like that, I found, it seems so obvious, but people don’t ask those questions."

Witherspoon isn't just talking the talk either. She's been changing the game for women in Hollywood for years.

In 2012, Witherspoon launched Pacific Standard, a production company focused on creating more women-led entertainment projects. It's produced blockbusters like "Wild" and "Gone Girl," as well as the critically acclaimed miniseries "Big Little Lies," in which Witherspoon starred alongside Dern, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley. The series was widely praised for drawing attention to issues surrounding domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The cast of HBO's "Big Little Lies." Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

After the 2016 presidential election, Witherspoon also decided to launch Hello Sunshine — an online platform aimed at allowing women from across the country to share their own stories and be heard.

But so much more is needed.

We desperately need more people like Witherspoon working behind the scenes in Hollywood.

A study released in January found women made up just 7% of director roles across the industry's top 250 films in 2016 — down 2% from the year before. If filmmaking wants to be a more inclusive and less abusive industry for women, men need to become allies in action, advocating for more women to take up space behind closed doors, where deals are made and movies are green-lit.

But Witherspoon — who's "really, really encouraged that there will be a new normal" after the Weinstein allegations went public — believes change is on the horizon.

"For the young women sitting in this room, life is going to be different for you because we have you, we have your back," Witherspoon said. "And that makes me feel better because, gosh, it’s about time."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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