Melissa Benoist, who stars on Supergirl and also starred in Waco and Glee, shared an emotional confession with her Instagram followers: she is a survivor of domestic abuse. In the almost-15-minute video, Benoist read her story and shared intimate details of what she went through.
“I am a survivor of domestic violence or IPV (intimate partner violence), which is something I never in my life expected I would say, let alone be broadcasting into the ether," she began. "He was a magnanimous person, who didn't really give you a choice not to be drawn to him. He could be charming, funny, manipulative, devious."
"He was younger than me, his maturity obvious," she continued. "For a period of time, I wasn’t interested. I was newly single, gaining my bearing in a period of change in my life, making dumb decisions. But in the midst of that, he became a friend. A friend that made me laugh and made me feel less alone, made me feel special and worthwhile, and then once we started dating, it was a zero to 60 catapult.”
Benoist admitted that despite her abuser's behavior, she still wanted to make things work.
"It's still hard for me to dissect what I was thinking and feeling that kept me from stopping what felt like a runaway freight train," she expressed of her relationship. "It didn't matter that I had misgivings, whether or not he was the one, at the time, it felt very good how much he coveted me. How much he seemed to treasure who I was. He loved me. I thought I loved him, and I was going to make it work."
The abuse wasn't physical at first, but rather more about controlling Benoist's clothing, who she spoke to, and what she did on her phone. It also affected her work.
“Work, in general, was a touchy subject,” she admitted. “He didn’t want me ever kissing or even 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.”
Despite all of those things, “none of that registered as abuse because I was worried about how he felt at that point. In retrospect, I see that each red flag followed a very clear path on things becoming violent."
It was five months into their relationship that the physical abuse started. Benoist's abuser threw a smoothie at her face. She chose not to tell anyone because she was ashamed of what was going on, and she didn't want her partner to abuse her further. However, it still continued.
“The stark truth is I learned what it felt like to be pinned down and slapped repeatedly, punched so hard the wind was knocked out of me, dragged by my hair across pavement, head-butted, pinched until my skin broke, shoved into a wall so hard the drywall broke, choked,” Benoist revealed. “I learned to lock myself in rooms but quickly stopped because the door was inevitably broken down. I learned to not value any of my property — replaceable and irreplaceable. I learned not to value myself.”
Benoist said that her abuser often apologized after his attacks, and but she never believed it would make a difference.
“Deep down I never believed he would change, I just fooled myself into thinking I could help him,” she admitted. “Someone had to let him know his behavior wasn’t okay, and who better than the one he was taking it out on?”
The attacks affected Benoist more than physically. She admitted that it changed the way she acted around others.
“I have changed and I’m not proud of how I changed,” she said. “I became a person I could have never imagined lurked inside of me. I was livid at what was happening and that fact that I was allowing it to out of the fear of failure. I experienced firsthand that violence begets violence. I started fighting back because rage is contagious.”
“I developed an astonishing poker face. Inwardly I was the ugliest version of myself I had ever known,” she continued. “I became unreliable, unprofessional, sometimes unreachable. There were stretches of weeks where I wouldn’t get out of bed for more than two hours a day. If you met me at this time, I was most likely friendly, just to the point of getting close and aloof to the point of getting cold. Melissa in public put on a happy face and a healthy life, where as Melissa at home dropped the veneer and lived a nightmare in the middle of one never-ending dispute. Battle wounds and all."
There was one attack that finally made Benoist realize that not only were things not going to change, but also that she had to get out.
"It was a blow to my face with his iPhone. The impact tore my iris, nearly ruptured my eyeball, lacerated my skin and broke my nose,” she recalled. “My left eye swelled shut. I had a fat lip … Something inside of me broke, this was too far.”
“This is an injury that’s never going to fully heal, my vision is never going to be the same,” the star continued. “Whatever I thought love was, it certainly wasn’t what I had been going through. I was so tired of living the way I had been living, but it felt too late to get out. Would it be safe to leave?”
Benoist lied to hospital staff about her injuries, but confided in a friend who had asked about her partner's aggressive nature.
“Leaving was not a walk in the park. It is not an event, it’s a process. I felt complicated feelings of guilt for leaving and for hurting someone I had protected for so long, and yes, [a] mournful feeling of leaving something familiar,” she explained. “But luckily, the people I let in, the more I was bolstered, I never lost the sense of clarity that kept telling me, ‘You do not deserve this.'”
“None of this is salacious news, it was my reality,” she continued. “What I went through caused a tectonic shift in my outlook on life … Breaking that cycle was the most rewarding, empowering choice I have ever made for myself. I feel an enduring strength and self-assurance that has dug its roots deep within me. I will be healing from this for the rest of my life. And that’s okay.”
Benoist is hoping that her story will help prevent others from experiencing the same thing. She revealed that one in four men and one in four women have experienced domestic violence.
“I want those statistics to change, and I hope that telling my story will prevent more stories like this from happening,” she said. “If you are enduring what I went through and you see this, you might be able to find the tiny straw that will break the camel’s back.”
There was an outpouring of support for Benoist, who continued her message later on.
“The long and winding road of healing and reconciliation has brought me to this moment where I feel strong enough to talk about my experience openly, honestly and without shame,” Benoist wrote in another post. “By sharing my story, hopefully I can empower others to seek help and extricate themselves from abusive relationships. Everyone deserves to be loved void of violence, fear and physical harm.”
So who was it?
Benoist doesn't name her abuser, but people are linking the stories to her ex-husband and former Glee co-star, Blake Jenner. In 2016, when Benoist was married to Jenner, she went on The Tonight Show and said she had an eye injury caused by falling down the stairs and hitting her head on a potted plant.
The injury sounded very similar to what Benoist described in her Instagram video. In the interview, she also said "I looked like Squirt from Finding Nemo," which is what she said in her Instagram video that abuser told her after the he injured her. Jenner is also younger than Benoist, which is the only detail the Supergirl star gave.
Benoist is now married to her Supergirl co-star, Chris wood.
It's heartbreaking to hear what Benoist went through, and even more heartbreaking to know that it's happen to millions of people suffering in silence.