TRIGGER WARNING: Domestic violence and abuse
Cape Town – Supergirl's Melissa Benoist has opened up in a heartbreaking video on Instagram about her domestic violence survival story.
"So I don't normally do things like this, but I've written something that I want to share, and I wanted it to stay my words and not have to edit it down for publishing. I'm gonna read it out loud, and I'm quite nervous, so bear with me," she said.
"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 said, before describing her abuser. "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.
"For a period of time, I wasn't interested. I was newly single, gaining my bearing in a change in my life."
Melissa said that soon changed because he made her feel "special", and things were good for a while. But once they started dating, things changed.
The 31-year-old said there were small things that she didn't quite register was abuse, like when he started "snooping" on her phone, when he'd make her change her clothes so other men wouldn't look at her and when he'd keep her from taking specific jobs because he felt uncomfortable with her working with co-stars and doing "flirtatious" scenes. But then it became physical abuse.
"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 the pavement, head-butted, pinched until my skin broke, shoved into a wall so hard the drywall broke, choked. 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," she said.
The actress continued, saying she still tried to make it work, because she felt like she could help heal his brokenness, and she held on because he did feel guilty and sorry after he did what he did. She established a poker face, and no one really knew.
Her abuser would even joke with her mother, "She cries enough water to end thirst in a third world country."
But she recalls an incident in which it all became too much. "It was a blow to my face with his iPhone," she said. "The impact tore my iris, nearly ruptured my eyeball, lacerated my skin and broke my nose. My left eye swelled shut. I had a fat lip... Something inside of me broke, this was too far.
"Leaving was not a walk in the park," she said. "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, mournful feeling of leaving something familiar. 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.'
"Breaking that cycle was the most rewarding, empowering choice I've ever made for myself. I feel an enduring strength. I will be healing from this for the rest of my life," she said.
Melissa later posted an image on Instagram with a helpline reaching out to victims of domestic violence who may be suffering in silence.
View this post on Instagram
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
Melissa is currently married to her Supergirl co-star Chris Wood. She was previously married to Glee star, Blake Jenner.
If you are a victim or know someone who is in an abusive relationship, for help and counselling contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 0800 21 22 23 or 0800 12 13 14 (24 hrs).
(Photo: Getty Images)