On a new episode of Netflix's My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman, Ellen, 61, said the abuse began when she was a teenager, and her mother, Betty DeGeneres, married "a very bad man.”
At the time, Betty was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have one of her breasts removed — something which her husband used to his advantage.
"He told me when she was out of town that he’d felt a lump in her breast and needed to feel my breasts because he didn’t want to upset her, but he needed to feel mine," Ellen recalled. "Again, 'cause I didn’t know about bodies, I don’t know that breasts are all different and… Anyway, he convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time."
Over time, the abuse got worse.
One time, Ellen said: "He tries to break my door down, and I kicked the window out and ran 'cause I knew it was going to go more to something.”
“I didn’t want to tell my mother 'cause I was protecting her and I knew that would ruin her happiness,” said Ellen, adding that while she maintains a good relationship with her mother, she wishes she’d stopped protecting her.
"I’m angry at myself because, you know, I didn’t — I was too weak to stand up to — I was 15 or 16," Ellen said. "It’s a really horrible, horrible story and the only reason I’m actually going to go into detail about it is because I want other girls to not ever let someone do that."
Ellen — who's father died in 2018 — said her mother has apologized for not having believed her sooner, but it's not enough.
"I should never have protected her. I should have protected myself and 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’d changed the story so many times," Ellen said.
While the daytime show host has previously spoken of her abuse story, this is the first time she’s gone into detail, and she hopes her bravery will inspire other victims to speak up.
"We women just don’t feel like we’re worthy, or we’re scared to have a voice, and we’re scared to say no," she said. "That’s the only reason I think it’s important to talk about it because there’s so many young girls and it doesn’t matter how old you are. When I see people speaking out, especially now, it angers me when victims aren’t believed, because we just don’t make stuff up. And I like men, but there are so many men that get away with so much."
"It is just time for us to have a voice,” continued the star. “It’s time for us to have power."