At one point, Winfrey asked Witherspoon, 41, about the most difficult period of her life.
“For me, probably leaving an abusive relationship,” she said. “A line got drawn in the sand and it got crossed, and my brain just switched and I knew it was going to be very difficult but I just couldn’t go any further. But it was profound and I was young.”
READ MORE: ‘Game of Thrones’ creators to make new series of ‘Star Wars’ movies
While Witherspoon didn’t reveal her ex’s identity, in the past she’s become more open about her past abusive experiences. She revealed in October of last year that she was sexually assaulted by a director when she was only 16 years old.
She went on to say that she wishes it 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,” she said at the time. “But after hearing all the stories and hearing these brave women speak up tonight about things that we’re told to sweep under the rug and not to talk about, it’s made me want to speak up and speak up loudly.”
In regard to the abusive relationship, she said that “it changed who I was on a cellular level, the fact that I stood up for myself. It’s part of the reason I can stand up and say, ‘Yes, I’m ambitious.’ Because someone tried to take that from me.”
Witherspoon is now married to Jim Toth, with whom she has five-year-old son, Tennessee; she also has 18-year-old daughter Ava and 14-year-old son Deacon with her ex-husband, actor Ryan Phillippe.
Witherspoon appears on the cover of O with Mindy Kaling and Winfrey.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.