Lifestyle & Human Interest

Actress Reese Witherspoon Opens Up About the Abusive Relationship that Changed Her


Reese Witherspoon is an Academy Award-winning actress. She’s known for her role as Elle Woods in the movie “Legally Blonde,” among many others.

The confidence and intelligence of her character Woods was not just an act for Witherspoon. She’s a successful woman empowering other women both on-screen and off.

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Witherspoon didn’t always have a healthy self-esteem, though. We know her primarily as an actress, but she recently opened up about how she’s also a survivor of a past abusive relationship.

During an interview with Oprah Winfrey for “SuperSoul Sunday,” Witherspoon was asked, “What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make to fulfill your destiny?” Her answer had nothing to with a decision regarding her wildly successful career.

Instead, it was leaving an abusive relationship. The actress suffered from both psychological and verbal abuse in a relationship when she was young.

Winfrey asked her when she made the profound and difficult decision to leave. Witherspoon answered, “A line got drawn in the sand, and it got crossed.”

“My brain just switched, and I knew it was going to be very difficult, but I just couldn’t go any further…It changed who I was on a cellular level,” she continued.

The young woman Witherspoon was when she was in the abusive relationship is unrecognizable to the woman she is today. People in her life who knew her then and now have even commented that she is a “different person.”

Witherspoon explained that she wouldn’t have the self-esteem she does now if she had not stood up for herself and left. Nobody should have to go through an abusive relationship to learn this lesson, but it was life-changing for Witherspoon.

She attributed that experience and eventual decision to leave as the reason why she can stand up for herself and other women today in the way that she does. “It’s part of the reason I can stand up and say, ‘Yes, I’m ambitious,’ because somebody tried to take that from me,” she explained.

Intimate partner abuse and violence are complex. Women who can relate to Witherspoon’s position of finding herself in an abusive relationship will probably not be empowered to leave simply with basic encouragement to “stand up” for themselves.

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We hope they do find that strength to stand up and leave, but understand it’s not easy. Hopefully, their sense of worth can be restored and even strengthen like in Witherspoon’s experience.

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Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College.
Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College. Carolyn's writing has been featured in both online and print media, including Just Between Us magazine. She resides in Phoenix with her husband and children.
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