Actor Melissa Benoist is proving that she is a real-life superhero. The Supergirl star stunned fans on Wednesday when she posted a 14-minute IG video revealing the horrific details of a previous relationship that involved emotional and physical abuse.
“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,” said Benoist in the opening of the video. The actor goes on to recount how she and her partner started off as friends, but when things became romantic, his behaviour began to gradually change over time.
Benoist says that the abuse began on a small scale, with her partner monitoring her phone, forcing her to change her clothes before leaving the house, and fighting with her about work, adding “Work, in general, was a touchy subject. 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.”
Things turned violent five months into the relationship, with Benoist saying that in retrospect, the red flags were there, but at the time “none of that registered as abuse because I was worried about how he felt at that point.”
Hiding the abuse from family and friends, Benoist reveals that the violence escalated to a terrifying level. “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,” she said. “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.”
The actor says that the abuse led to a deep depression where she would go weeks without getting out of bed for more than two hours per day. Benoist developed what she called a ‘poker face,’ maintaining a happy and carefree attitude towards those around her without letting anyone get close.
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In the video, Benoist describes her ex as someone who was younger than her. In light of Benoist’s revelations, fans are speculating that her unnamed abuser is the actor’s Glee co-star and ex-husband Blake Jenner, who is four years younger than Benoist. The couple were married from 2015 to 2017 before announcing their separation. One fan unearthed a 2015 clip of Benoist talking to Jimmy Fallon about injuring her eye on a potted plant, an injury that Benoist has now admitted in her new video was the result of her abuser throwing an iPhone at her face, causing permanent damage to her vision. Benoist said that after months of extreme physical abuse, which she details in the video, it was this event that lead to her leaving her ex.
Inspiring others to find a way out
The actor says that in posting the video, she hopes to inspire others to leave violent relationships. “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.”
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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. 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. @futureswithoutviolence
Benoist has received an outpouring of love and support on social media after coming forward with her difficult and painful story. Former Grey’s Anatomy star and Benoist’s Supergirl co-star Chyler Leigh commented on Benoist’s video, writing, “I love you with all my heart Mel. You’ve got my love, support, and utmost respect.” Co-star Esmé Bianco wrote “I’m so proud of you and love you so much. You are incredibly strong and your bravery will help so many others. Always here for you.”
Many of Benoist’s fans are thanking her for sharing her story, which acts as a reminder that victims of domestic violence can look like anyone, including successful TV stars. Others are sharing their own stories of survival and thanking Benoist for coming forward.
Supergirl showrunners Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schecter released a joint statement, calling Benoist a hero both on and off the screen.
— Sarah Schechter (@SarahSoWitty) November 28, 2019
Many other fans of Benoist have praised the actor for her courageous decision to speak out and help end the stigma around domestic violence, including Supergirl director Kevin Smith.
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) November 28, 2019
This is one of the bravest and most powerful things I’ve ever seen. I’ve suffered DV and never had this level of eloquence to describe the conflicting feelings of it. Nor have I had the courage to so explicitly explain the scenario. What an amazing young survivor @MelissaBenoist https://t.co/oaTeeBhYET
— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) November 28, 2019
You just saved someone’s life today. I’m certain of it. Thank you for using your voice for the powers of good.
— Julie Plec (@julieplec) November 28, 2019
— Jon Cryer (@MrJonCryer) November 28, 2019
just finished watching, and @MelissaBenoist is a fucking hero. talking about something as complex & layered as intimate partner violence so openly, as she did, is a massive feat & such a selfless act that will hopefully heal so many. we can all only hope to be as brave as she is.
— Dove Cameron (@DoveCameron) November 28, 2019
In September, Benoist married her Supergirl co-star Chris Wood.