‘Condition of employment’: Reese Witherspoon on sexual assault

With every passing day, more and more brave women are coming forward with stories of the sexual harassment and assault they have been forced to endure over the course of their careers in Hollywood.

At Elle's Women in Hollywood event last night, the industry's biggest female stars were given a platform to open up about the confusion and anxiety they felt when they realised their careers could be put in jeopardy if they spoke up about the crimes committed against them.

Along with Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar-winner, Reese Witherspoon, admitted that she has struggled to come to terms with numerous sexual assaults committed against her during her time in the entertainment industry.

"This has been a really hard week for women in Hollywood, for women all over the world, and a lot of situations and a lot of industries are forced to remember and relive a lot of ugly truths," she said.

“I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly and I find it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate a lot of the feelings that I’ve been having about anxiety, honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier.”

Reflecting on her teenage years in the spotlight, the 41-year-old resents the adults who failed to protect her and the men who ultimately exploited her naivety.

"I feel true disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16-years-old and anger at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment," she said.

"And I wish that I could tell you 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."

While Reese admits that memory of past experiences have been incredibly difficult to deal with, the bravery exhibited by other women in recent weeks has had a profoundly positive effect on her.

"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 because I actually felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career," she said.

While undeniably painful, Reese sees the merit in accepting her past experiences as a tool to move forward in life, saying: "It makes me so sad to talk about these issues, but I would be remiss not to."

"That truth is very encouraging to me and everyone out there in the world because you can only heal by telling the truth."