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Reese Witherspoon shares how leaving an abusive relationship changed her life

The Oscar winner opened up to her "Wrinkle in Time" co-star Oprah Winfrey about finding the strength to leave an abusive relationship when she was younger.
/ Source: TODAY

Reese Witherspoon says leaving an abusive relationship when she was younger changed the course of her life.

During a new "SuperSoul Sunday" interview with her "Wrinkle in Time" co-star Oprah Winfrey, the Oscar winner, 41, revealed that breaking free from someone who psychologically and verbally abused her helped her become the happy and successful woman she is today.

"I could never be the person I am today. ... It changed who I was on a cellular level, the fact that I stood up for myself," said Witherspoon, who was interviewed along with the pair's "Wrinkle in Time" co-star Mindy Kaling.

Witherspoon, who did not name her abuser, recalled the moment she found the courage to leave the relationship.

"A line got drawn in the sand and it got crossed, and my brain just switched,” the actress said. "I knew it was going to be very difficult, but I just couldn’t go any further. It was profound and I was young, really young."

The actress said the decision was made even harder because the person had so damaged her self-esteem.

"People say to me that knew me then, 'You're a completely different person.' I didn't have self-esteem. I'm a different person now and it's part of the reason I can stand up and say, 'Yes, I'm ambitious' — because someone tried to take that from me before," said Witherspoon, whose remarks will also be published in the March issue of O, The Oprah Magazine (on newsstands Feb. 13).

Experiencing abuse firsthand, said the mom of three, informed her decision to produce and star in the Emmy-winning HBO series "Big Little Lies," which features a domestic abuse storyline.

When she and her "Big Little Lies" colleagues shared their stories with each other, said Witherspoon, "There wasn't a woman there that hadn't been affected by abuse."

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Last October, in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, Witherspoon revealed during a speech at Elle's Women In Hollywood event that a director sexually assaulted her when she was 16.

"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," said the star, "because I actually felt less alone this week than I have ever felt in my entire career."