Melissa Benoist, star of the TV show Supergirl, opened up about being a survivor of domestic violence in an emotional, almost 15-minute IGTV video. The actress said her abuser, whom she didn’t name, was younger than her, “charming, funny, manipulative, and devious.”
Warning: This story may contain triggering content.
At the time, she was newly single and not interested in dating. They became friends and eventually started going out. “I thought I loved him and I was going to make it work.”
In the beginning, the abuse seemed like “common dysfunction coming from his insecurity and depression.” She said, “There was a lot of jealousy. He was snooping on devices. He was angry when I spoke to another man. I had to change clothes often before we went out because he didn’t want people looking at me.”
“He didn’t want me kissing or having flirtatious scenes with men, which was very hard for me to avoid. So I began turning down auditions, job offers, test deals, and friendships because I didn’t want to hurt him.”
The physical abuse started about five months after their relationship began. “The violence escalated just as quickly as the relationship had, so quickly I didn’t know how to respond.”
The first time, he threw a smoothie at her face, which smacked her cheek and exploded all over the floor and couch.
"I learned what it felt like to be pinned down and slapped repeatedly, punched so hard that the wind was knocked out of me, dragged by my hair across pavement, head-butted, pinched until my skin broke, shoved against the wall so hard that the drywall broke, and choked. I learned to lock myself in rooms, but quickly stopped because the door was inevitably broken down. I learned not to value my property… I learned not to value myself.”
After every attack, she recalled that her abuser would put her in a bathtub and turn on the faucet, and leave. He would later return and apologize. “But deep down I never believed he would change. I just fooled myself into believing I could help him. I thought I could love him enough to make him see a way of life where violence was not the way you handle emotions... Someone had to let him know his behavior wasn't okay—who better than the one he was taking it out on?”
The abuse went on for months. Sometimes there wouldn’t be physical violence “for a month or two and I would rejoice in the peace, thinking maybe it’s actually different now.”
“Things were different, but not for the better. I had changed and I wasn’t proud of how I changed.” She started fighting back “because rage is contagious.” She became “unreliable, unprofessional, sometimes unreachable. There were stretches of weeks when I wouldn’t get out of bed for more than two hours a day.” She lied to friends, family, and colleagues about how she got bruises and scratches.
“It was as if I split into spinning plates to maintain a false image versus the truth I was living... Melissa in public put on a happy face and purported a healthy life, whereas Melissa at home lived a nightmare.”
The turning point was when he threw a phone at her face, which “tore my iris, nearly ruptured my eyeball, lacerated my skin, and broke my nose.” She said, “Something inside me broke. This was too far.”
They made up a story to cover up the blatant damage: “I had tripped and fallen down the stairs of our deck and hit my face on a potted plant.”
At the hospital, police talked to Melissa alone, but she stood by their story “that I’m sure they’d heard versions of before.” She said that she and her abuser “laughed together when he said my face was cute and looked like Squirt from Finding Nemo because my eye had become bulbous.” It was an injury that would never fully heal. “My vision is never going to be the same.”
Their cover-up story is eerily similar to an anecdote she told on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2016. She said her dog was running up to her when she slipped, fell down the stairs, and hit her eye on a potted plant. She laughingly said, “I tore my iris and I looked like Squirt from Finding Nemo. For a long time, my left pupil was eight times bigger than my right.”
You can watch the interview starting at the 03:34 mark below:
On her IGTV video, Melissa continued, “After that, I was done. I keenly felt that whatever I thought love was, it certainly wasn’t what I had been going through. I was so tired of living the way I’d been living, but it felt too late to get out. Would it be safe for me to leave? I had ostracized myself so completely that I made myself believe that I had no one to turn to if I did leave. I was ashamed.”
“Unbeknownst to me, many people in my life suspected and feared what was happening.” A friend visited her at work when her abuser wasn’t around and sat her down for a talk. “It was the first moment I spoke about the abuse to anyone and I can’t describe the amount of relief and solace I felt.”
She said the “irony” of being torn down in an abusive relationship is that “you build an impenetrable strength without realizing it. Finally uttering the words that I had muted for so long inflamed that power in me. I had to get out.”
She said leaving was a heart-wrenching process, but she found strength in the people she let into her life again. “I will be healing from this for the rest of my life and that’s okay. I’ve discovered that healing is a constant maneuvering to find what works and what triggers, but it is possible.”
She said that domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes in the US, according to the US Department of Justice, with one in four women experiencing it in their lifetime. “I want those statistics to change and I hope that telling my story might help prevent more stories like mine from happening.”
“If you are enduring what I went through and you see this, maybe you will find just a tiny straw that will break the camel's back or at least begin to think of your freedom… You can and deserve to live a violence-free life.”
If you are or you know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, you can call the hotlines below:
- Department of Social Welfare and Development: (02) 931-8101 to 07
- DSWD-NCR Ugnayan Pag-asa Crisis Intervention Center: (02) 734-8639, (02) 734-8654, (02) 734-8626 to 27
- Philippine National Police: (02) 723-0401 to 20
- PNP-Women and Children Protection Center: (02) 410-3213
- NBI-Violence Against Women and Children Desk: (02) 523-8231 to 38, (02) 525-6028
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