Kerry Washington Reflects on the Impact of Her Sexual Assault on Her Life: 'I Was Gaslit'

The actress revealed that she was sexually assaulted in her memoir 'Thicker Than Water,' released in September 2023

<p>David Fisher/Shutterstock</p> Kerry Washington

David Fisher/Shutterstock

Kerry Washington

Kerry Washington is reflecting on how her sexual assault has impacted her life.

The Scandal star, 47, talked about the assault while speaking about her September 2023 memoir, Thicker Than Water, at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on Saturday, April 20.

When asked about how the abuse has shaped the person she is, Washington told Erika D. Smith that it was one of the early instances in her life when someone denied the truth to her and made her doubt her intuition.

Thicker Than Water retells Washington's journey of self-discovery, centering on the fact that she learned that her dad, Earl Washington, wasn't her biological father in the spring of 2018 when she was about 41 years old.

<p>Michael Kovac/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty</p> Kerry Washington

Michael Kovac/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty

Kerry Washington

At Saturday's event, she told Smith that she revealed she was sexually assaulted in the book because it was an example of the truth being withheld from her, which made it difficult for her to find the essence of who she was.

"The version of the story that I want to tell is the version of figuring out the truth of who I am and what were the obstacles that got in the way of me being able to know my truth and experience my truth," Kerry said.

Related: Kerry Washington Reveals She's Had an Abortion: 'It Was Really Important for Me to Share' (Exclusive)

"And one of those things was that I had survived this sexual assault that was happening at night," she continued. "And why it was relevant to the story is because of the ways that I was gaslit that I didn't know that something, I didn't know what was happening at night, but I knew that something was happening."

Kerry didn't reveal the identity of her alleged abuser in the book, but she said the assaults happened during sleepovers that she attended as a child in the Bronx. One of the boys in her neighborhood would allegedly touch her and then denied it.

<p>Randy Brooke/WireImage</p> Kerry Washington with her parents Valerie and Earl Washington

Randy Brooke/WireImage

Kerry Washington with her parents Valerie and Earl Washington

"When I approached the person who was doing it, he told me that it was in my imagination and that I didn't know what I was talking about and that I was crazy," she said at the USC event.

"And that became a framework that I found myself fighting against a lot of my life, that if I had an instinctive thought about something, an intuitive idea about something, there was another thread of messaging in my brain that said, 'You're crazy. You don't know what you're talking about. That's not really true.' "

"And so that's what I feel like I've spent a lot of my life trying to beat back — the messaging that I don't know my own truth," Kerry added.

Related: Kerry Washington Tells Robin Roberts Why She Chose to Hide Violation by Boy Who Inappropriately Touched Her

"He was not a pedophile," the Little Fires Everywhere star wrote in her book of the boy who lied to her.

"The truth remains that there were things done to me — while I was sleeping, and without my consent — but the perpetrator was a child himself. It is partly my compassion for him that has kept these incidents a secret, locked in the vault of my mind."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

<p>Anna Pocaro/IndieWire via Getty Images</p> Kerry Washington

Anna Pocaro/IndieWire via Getty Images

Kerry Washington

Similar to her parents withholding the truth of her DNA from her, the actress said she never told them about her experiences at the sleepovers.

At the Festival of Books, Kerry said that by telling her the truth about her biology, her parents gave her the gift of being able to trust herself again because she always had a sense of "some kind of secret being kept" in her home.

"When they gave me this truth about my genetics, one of the things they gave me was truly a pathway back to myself, a pathway back to trusting myself and being able to trust my own intuitive knowing and value the messages in my brain as truth and not crazy," she explained.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.