Melissa Benoist plays a superhero every Sunday on The CW's Supergirl, but now the actress behind the Girl of Steel is showing her own strength by sharing her experience with domestic violence. In a lengthy video Benoist shared to Instagram's IGTV on Wednesday, Benoist revealed her history as a survivor of domestic violence -- also known as intimate partner violence or IPV -- and detailed not just the violence she experienced but the complex emotions she experienced during that time in her life, how she got out of the relationship, and what she referred to "the long and winding road of healing and reconciliation."
"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 on an Instagram post thanking fans for taking the time to watch her IGTV story. "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."
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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
In the video, which she entitled "Life Isn't Always What it Seems," Benoist read from a statement that she had written and admitted to viewers that she was "quite nervous" opening up about her experience. Over the course of the nearly 15-minute video, Benoist does not identify her abuser, but she does detail the course their relationship took. She describes the attention her abuser paid to her, how he made her feel special until they began dating when that attention turned to jealousy, controlling behavior, and, ultimately, significant physical abuse. She also details what is frequently referred to as the "honeymoon period" in IPV relationships when, after abuse, the perpetrator will apologize and pledge to change only for the cycle to repeat again.
Benoist in particular describes on violent incident, one that sounds like it was the "final straw" of sorts, that may sound familiar to some fans as she has described elements of it framed as her "clumsiness" in an interview with Jimmy Fallon in 2016. Disguising abuse as an accident or acts of clumsiness are common mechanisms used by IPV survivors.
Benoist's harrowing experience with IPV is sadly not uncommon. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Over the course of a year, this number equates to more than 10 million women and men. As Benoist herself points out in her Instagram post, 1 in 4 women experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc. For men, that number is 1 in 9.
As Benoist notes in her IGTV story, IPV is also one of the most under-reported crimes. NCADV notes that IPV accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime but does not provide details on reporting rates.
Benoist closes her video by telling viewers that she wants the troubling IPV statistics in the United States to change and hopes that, by telling her story, she can prevent others from experiencing what she did.0comments
"I choose to love. I don't choose to minimize my life out of fear," she says. "I choose to love myself, to know that love does not include violence and to let victims know that there is a way out in which you will be protected. If you are enduring what I went through and you see this maybe you will find this tiny straw that will break the camel's back or at least you might begin to think of your freedom in which case I am here. I am with you and you can and deserve to live a violence free life."
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs assistance and support, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The hotline is available 24/7/365 to speak confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.