Actress Melissa Benoist has revealed that she is a victim of domestic violence in a new video.
“So I don’t normally do things like this but I’ve written something that I want to share,” the 31-year-old ‘Supergirl’ star said in a 14-minute video posted to Instagram yesterday.
“I am a survivor of domestic violence, or IPV, intimate partner violence, which is something I never in my life expected I would say.”
Benoist described her abuser as a “charming, funny, manipulative, devious” young man who made her feel special. However, when the couple got romantically involved, “there was a zero to 60 catapult.”
She details examples of the perpetrator snooping on her devices and being angry when she spoke to other men.
He also didn’t like it when she had to kiss or flirt with men on screen, leading to the actress turning down auditions and job offers because she didn’t want to hurt him.
Benoist says that initially she didn’t categorise her partner’s behaviour as abuse, but she goes on to list various accounts of the violence she suffered.
“The first time it happened, he threw a smoothie at my face,” said Benoist. “It smacked my cheek and exploded all over the floor and the sofa,” she said.
“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 the wall so hard the drywall broke.”
After the violent episodes Benoist explained that he would always apologise, but though he seemed sincere, she did not believe he would change.
“I just fooled myself into believing I could help him,” she said. “I thought that I could love him enough to make him see a way of life where violence was not the way you handled emotions.”
The turning point came after Benoist’s ex threw an iPhone at her face tearing her iris and breaking her nose.
“Something inside of me broke. This was too far...” she explains before going on to say she plucked up the courage to confide in a friend.
“She bravely asked me if I was a victim of domestic violence,” she says, adding that the question offered her a huge sense of relief and also comfort.
The actress is hoping that by speaking out about her experiences she will help other victims of IPV.
“I am here, I am with you,” she said, “and you can and deserve to live a violence-free life.”
And users were quick to comment on the video offering their support and praising the actress for speaking out about the subject.
“Wow. there’s so much courage in sharing your story, and you chose to take your story and share it with the world. We see your strength. Thank you for sharing,” one wrote.
“I admire your bravery and courage, always know you’re never alone,” another agreed.
“Thank you for being so honest and raw about such an experience,” another user wrote. “I am so happy that you’re in a better place with people who love and support you surrounding you. You’re a strong and amazing woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind when it comes to these sort of topics. I’m glad you spoke out today and are inspiring other women to do the same.”
What is IPV?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that Intimate partner violence (IPV) is one of the most common forms of violence and includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by an intimate partner.
Though IPV occurs in all settings and among all genders, socioeconomic, religious and cultural groups, the overwhelming global burden of IPV is borne by women.
“This is a problem of epidemic proportions, with one in the three women experiencing abuse at the hands of an intimate partner during their lifetime,” explains Elizabeth Yardley, Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University.
“One really important myth to bust is that IPV is only about physical violence. We need to think about domestic abuse as a liberty crime in which a perpetrator restricts a victim’s rights and freedoms because of their sense of ownership of the victim and entitlement to control them. Domestic abuse is all about control, this is the central principle it revolves around,” she adds.
According to Vanessa Bettinson, Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at De Montfort University, IPV is most dangerous where the abuser seeks to control the victim and bend them to their will.
“To do this they will engage in a variety of tactics that are designed to most affect the victim,” she explains.
“Knowledge about what will be most serious to the victim will be discovered during the early courting stages of the relationship, where partners tend to open up as they get close to one another.”
Professor Yardley says that often perpetrators of IPV will engage in isolation and deprivation, destruction of self-worth, threats and monitoring and surveillance.
“Examples include dictating what a victim can wear, where they can go and who they can see, directly and indirectly putting them down, telling them they are worthless, enforcing ever-changing rules that humiliate and degrade them, threatening to harm or kill the victim, their children and/or pets and placing tracking devices on the victim’s vehicle or property,” she says.
According to Professor Yardley perpetrators will often target specific vulnerabilities, exploiting a victim’s own unique insecurities and anxieties.
“As such, domestic abuse will look different in different situations. That’s why it is important to look at the context – which involves looking at the outcomes of the behaviours.
“If this is about achieving control and power over a victim, it is abuse. Sometimes that includes physical violence and sometimes it doesn’t, don’t look for visible physical injuries – look for power and control.”
Professor Bettinson agrees that often IPV or domestic abuse is about control.
“The perpetrator may use violent physical behaviour such as in Melissa Benoist’s case. Sometimes just a single act of violence will be enough to abuse a person long-term as references to it by gestures or symbols develop between the couple.
“Methods of isolation are used so the victim no longer feels able to go to work, or visit friends and family. If you are starting to make excuses for the behaviour to others think why this might be – are you being controlled.”
What should people do if they suspect they are a victim?
Contact your GP, or local domestic abuse helplines. “There are many trained professionals out there that can support you through this process,” advises Bettinson.
“Even if violence is not used it is a criminal offence to subject an intimate partner to coercive and controlling behaviour,” she adds.