Oprah Winfrey has opened up about Reese Witherspoon’s reaction to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, revealing that the Big Little Lies star demonstrated signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The list of allegations against Harvey Weinstein continues to grow steadily longer: at this time, 84 women have accused the disgraced Hollywood producer of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct. Another 13 – including Rose McGowan and Asia Argento – have accused him of rape.
Now, in a candid interview, Oprah Winfrey has revealed that Reese Witherspoon displayed symptoms of PTSD after the initial allegations were first reported in October last year.
At that time, the A Wrinkle in Time co-stars were shooting together when they had a discussion about Weinstein with a group of women.
“This was like two days after the Harvey scandal had broken in The New York Times,” Oprah told Salma Hayek during a special live taping of the podcast SuperSoul Conversations, as reported by Entertainment Tonight.
“Everyone, including Reese – I’ve said this to her – was acting like, I was seeing some of the girls at my school behave, who were suffering from PTSD,” Oprah continued.
“Everybody was acting like they were afraid and they were having the conversation.”
“And I remember Reese saying, ‘Oh god, this is just so upsetting. And someone mentions his name, I start tearing up. And every time I hear someone else speak, it just causes me to be upset and I haven’t slept in two days,’” Oprah added.
“So I said, ‘Jeez, you guys are suffering from PTSD. Did something happen to you?’ Nobody said anything at the time.”
It was later that month that Witherspoon publicly revealed she had been sexually assaulted by a director when she was 16 years old.
“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,” Witherspoon said at the time, as reported by EW.
“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…[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.”
Witherspoon continued: “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.
“But 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.”
The Legally Blonde actress finished by saying: “I feel really, really encouraged that there will be a new normal. For the young women in this room, life is going to be different because we’re with you, we have your back and it makes me feel better. It makes me so sad to talk about these issues, but I would be remiss not to.”
PTSD, as the NHS explains, is caused by stressful, frightening or distressing events, and symptoms often include sufferers reliving the event though nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts or images at unwanted moments.
Further symptoms include problems with sleeping and concentration, and feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt, often severe enough to have an impact on sufferers’ day-to-day life.
It is a recognised mental health condition and can be successfully treated, even when it develops many years after a traumatic event. However, any treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and how soon they occur after the traumatic event – so, if you believe you are suffering from PTSD, it is advisable that you visit your GP as soon as possible, so they can refer you for further assessment.
Images: Rex Features