Roy Gruessendorf is Ellen DeGeneres’ stepfather. Ellen’s mother, Betty, married Gruessendorf shortly after divorcing the comedian’s father, Elliot DeGeneres, in 1974. Gruessendorf was Betty’s third husband. Ellen was 16 years old when her mother remarried for the third time.
Following their wedding, Gruessendorf, a salesman, moved the family from their home in Metairie, Louisiana, just west of New Orleans, to Atlanta, Texas, a little under 200 miles east of Texas. Ellen’s brother, Vance, was 20 at the time and remained in Louisiana. Ellen would return to her home state after high school to attend the University of New Orleans.
Roy Gruessendorf died in 1997.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ellen Says Her Stepfather Used Her Mother’s Breast Cancer Diagnosis to Molest Her
During her appearance on “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” with David Letterman, Ellen said that after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer after marrying Gruessendorf. Ellen went on to say that Gruessendorf used the tragic news as a means to molest his stepdaughter. The new season of Letterman’s show drops on Netflix on May 31.
Ellen told, via Entertainment Tonight, Letterman, “He told me when she was out of town that he’d felt a lump in her breast and needed to feel my breasts because he didn’t want to upset her, but he needed to feel mine. I’m angry at myself because, you know, I didn’t — I was too weak to stand up to — I was 15 or 16,” Ellen admits. “It’s a really horrible, horrible story and the only reason I’m actually going to go into detail about it is because I want other girls to not ever let someone do that.”
The comedian then turned her confession into a rallying cry for women who have been victims of abuse. Ellen said that too many women have been “scared to say no.” She added, ” When I see people speaking out, especially now, it angers me when victims aren’t believed because we just don’t make stuff up. And I like men, but there are so many men that get away with so much.”
2. Ellen First Spoke About Her Abuse in 2005
In 2005, Ellen first came forward with allegations that she had been molested by her stepfather. She told Allure Magazine that the abuse escalated to such a level that at one stage, her stepfather “tried to break into her bedroom.” Ellen went on to say, “I had to kick a window out and escape and sleep in a hospital all night long.” When speaking about how Gruessendorf used her mother’s diagnosis to abuse Ellen the comedian said, “My mother’s husband said he felt a lump in her other breast. But he didn’t want to alarm her so he needed to feel mine so he could compare. He made me lie down and I let him feel my breasts. A few weeks later, he tried to do it again, and I kept saying, ‘No! You can’t keep doing this!'”
During the same interview, Ellen said that the abuse she suffered had no impact on her sexuality. Ellen publicly came out as a lesbian in 1997. She told Allure, “People I’ve confided in about this before say, ‘Oh, that’s why you’re a lesbian.’ But I was a lesbian way before that. My earliest memories are of being a lesbian.”
3. Gruessendorf Did Not Approve of Ellen’s High School Friends
In the book, “Ellen: The Real Story of Ellen Degeneres,” Kathleen Tracy wrote that Grussendorf was a “strong-willed stepfather who was a stickler for responsibility.” Tracy goes on to say that Gruessendorf “didn’t approve of Ellen’s crowd.” The book says that Ellen stayed away from her home in her later teenage years because of her stepfather.
4. Betty Ended Her Marriage to Gruessendorf Just as Ellen’s Comedy Career Was Taking Off
Kathleen Tracy wrote in her book that after Ellen moved to San Francisco in the early 1980s to further her comedy career, Betty’s marriage to Gruessendorf was ending. The couple had moved 100 miles from Atlanta, Texas, to Tyler, Texas. Tracy wrote, “Betty felt more alone than ever. The sad truth was, Betty never grew as close to Roy as she had hoped she would, and now that sense of isolation was even worse.” Following their divorce, Betty moved back to the New Orleans-area.
5. The Family Converted From Christian Science Because of Grussendorf
Ellen and her brother were both raised in the Christian Science faith. In the book, “Ellen DeGeneres Biography: What Does it Take For a Gay to Succeed in the Entertainment Industry?,” writer Chris Dicker explains that following Betty’s marriage to Grussendorf, he converted the family to Christianity.