Actresses open up about sexual abuse, harassment

Jennifer Lawrence.
Reese Witherspoon.

WASHINGTON • Actresses Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera and Jennifer Lawrence have joined the chorus of actresses sharing troubling tales of sexual abuse and harassment.

Oscar winner Witherspoon used her speech at the Elle Women in Hollywood event on Monday night to reveal that a director sexually assaulted her when she was 16. That was the first time it happened to her, she said, though not the last.

Ferrera, who shared her story on Instagram, said when she was nine, a man sexually assaulted her.

At the same Elle-sponsored event, Oscar winner Lawrence talked about being part of a humiliating nude line-up. As a way of shaming her into losing weight for a role, she was forced to stand beside much thinner women, then photographed.

A female producer suggested Lawrence use the picture as weight-loss "inspiration". When she complained to another producer about it, "he said he didn't know why everyone thought I was so fat", she said. "He thought I was 'perfectly f***able.'"

Over the weekend, Icelandic singer Bjork took to Facebook to talk about a Danish director who she claimed sexually harassed her. Given that she has not starred in many movies, it did not take Internet sleuths long to surmise she was implicating her Dancer In The Dark (2000) director Lars Von Trier.

Even without being explicitly named, Von Trier defended himself in an interview with the Danish outlet Jyllands-Posten.

In another Facebook post on Monday, Bjork gave more details about her alleged experience, including six troubling episodes that ranged from graphic sexual advances to unwanted hugging in front of the cast and crew, which sometimes lasted for uncomfortably long periods of time.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Actresses open up about sexual abuse, harassment'. Print Edition | Subscribe