For an outspoken actress whose entire life has been spent in the public eye, Jane Fonda, 79, has kept private certain details about her childhood until now.
In a recent interview with actress Brie Larson in Edit, Fonda said: “I’ve been raped, I’ve been sexually abused as a child.”
“I’ve been fired because I wouldn’t sleep with my boss and I always thought it was my fault; that I didn’t do or say the right thing,” she added.
The Academy Award-winning actress and star of the Netflix show “Grace and Frankie” said she was making the revelation to show “the extent to which a patriarchy takes a toll on females.”
It appeared to be the first time Fonda had spoken of the abuse.
“I know young girls who’ve been raped and didn’t even know it was rape,” she said, adding that they think it must have been because they said “no” in the wrong way.
Fonda discussed feminism, the women’s movement and celebrity political activism in the candid interview with Larson, an actress who has played two characters who were sexually abused — including her her Oscar-winning role in the movie “Room” — and who has become a vocal advocate for victims of sexual assault.
Larson said in the interview that she had been encouraged by others to reach out to Fonda and rely on her as an “anchor,” that is, an example of an actress who never shied from political activism. Fonda made headlines for her activism against the Vietnam War in the 1970s, particularly when she traveled to North Vietnam and was photographed laughing and clapping along with Vietnamese soldiers. Her actions and photographs would earn her the nickname “Hanoi Jane” and spur protests from American veterans and decades of international criticism.
Fonda apologized and expressed her regret repeatedly over the years, as recently as 2015. She told “60 Minutes” in 2005 that while the trip to Vietnam was worthwhile, the photo was a mistake. “The image of Jane Fonda, Barbarella, Henry Fonda’s daughter, sitting on an enemy aircraft gun was a betrayal,” she said, “the largest lapse of judgment I can imagine.”
But in the Edit interview, Fonda encouraged celebrities, including Larson, to continue speaking out. Larson said she had been receiving a lot of backlash lately, with people telling her that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about because she is “elite.”
“When so many people tell you that, it’s easy to start believing it,” Larson told Fonda.
Fonda responded: “Whenever there’s been an important revolution or social upheaval, artists, actors, writers and poets are always the people that can reach into areas that politics can’t.”
“People want to silence you,” Fonda added. “If it didn’t matter, no one would bother saying, ‘Shut up.’”
Fonda, who took to the streets of Los Angeles for the Women’s March to protest Donald Trump’s policies, spoke about the modern women’s movement and how it has changed throughout the years. She also described times in which she said she was taken advantage of earlier in her career.
“Unlike you, Brie, it took me 60 years to learn how to say no. If anyone offered me anything I would say yes,” Fonda said, adding that she didn’t then know how to stand up for herself and took parts that she wasn’t right for.
Now, she can say, “I don’t like the way you’re treating me,” and leave, she added. “If only I knew then what I do now.”
More from Morning Mix