Just days after her daughter, Ellen DeGeneres, broke her silence on sexual assault allegations against her late stepfather as a teen, Betty DeGeneres is speaking out. The Ellen DeGeneres Show star’s mother shared an emotional statement on Friday, May 31.
“I know now that one of the hardest things to do is speak up after being sexually abused,” Betty, 89, candidly revealed to Today. “I love my daughter, and I wish I had the capacity to listen to her when she told me what happened.”
Betty explained that she chose to open up in hopes that her story will inspire others to believe victims — something she didn’t do when it came to her own daughter. “I live with that regret, and I wouldn’t want that for any other parent,” Betty admitted. “If someone in your life has the courage to speak out, please believe them.”
News of the heartbreaking allegation was brought to light after Ellen, 61, spoke candidly about being sexually assaulted by her mother’s late husband. The beloved TV host recalled the agonizing situation when she was just a young teenager while appearing on season 2 of David Letterman‘s Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
“She remarried a very bad man, a very bad man,” Ellen said of Betty’s second husband, who she began dating following a divorce from Elliott DeGeneres in 1974. “My mother had breast cancer right after they got married so she had her breast removed and they had a very sexual relationship, which was also very uncomfortable for me. And he told me when she was out of town that he felt a lump in her breast and needed to feel my breast and didn’t want to upset her but needed to feel mine.”
Although Ellen was aware of the sexual abuse, she chose to not tell Betty because she was “protecting” her mother and didn’t want to “ruin her happiness” — which happens to be one of Ellen’s biggest regrets. “I should never have protected her and I should have protected myself,” the Finding Dory star candidly admitted. “I didn’t tell her for a few years and then I told her and then she didn’t believe me and then she stayed with him for 18 more years, and finally left him because he changed the story so many times.”
Although Betty is now “apologetic” regarding the traumatic scenario, Ellen said it wasn’t “until recently” that she was bothered by her mother’s distrust. “I kind of went, ‘I wish I would have been better taken care of. I wish you would have believed me.'”
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).