Comedian's chilling post about an abusive relationship is empowering others
Towards the end of 2017, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and #MeToo campaign opened the eyes of many who had previously been oblivious to the kinds of sexual and physical abuse that millions of people - mostly women - face throughout their lives. The news was upsetting, disappointing, and downright terrifying. However, to many, it wasn't at all surprising.
Beth Stelling, a writer and stand-up comedian, has been more than familiar with the sort of violence that #MeToo had set out to highlight long before the campaign began. In fact, she had spoken out about her own experience publicly in 2015 - but, back then, there was not as much focus on the issue.
Now that Stelling has risen to greater notoriety, her post has re-emerged - and it's painful to read.
"Same girl in all of these photos (me)," Stelling wrote alongside a collage of four photos, three of which showed her heavily-bruised body. She continued:
"I've had an amazing year and you've seen the highlights here, so these photos are an uncommon thing to share but not an uncommon issue. You may be weirded out but do read on. I have a point.
"There are many reasons not to make an abusive relationship public, mostly fear. Scared of what people will think, scared it makes me look weak or unprofessional."
Stelling then went on to say that she had recently left her ex because of the abuse he subjected her to, and reminded her fans that leaving someone so violent is rarely as easy as it sounds:
"When I broke up with my ex this summer, it wasn't because I didn't love him, it was because of this. And I absolutely relapsed and contacted him with things I shouldn’t have, but there are no 'best practices' with this. When friends or comics ask why we broke up it's not easy or comfortable to reply; it doesn't seem like the appropriate thing to say at a stand-up show, a party or a wedding. It's embarrassing. I feel stupid.
"After being verbally, physically abused and raped, I dated him for two more months. It's not simple."
At one point, she confessed, she even concealed his crimes because she felt sorry for him.
"After I broke up with him he said, 'You're very open and honest in your stand-up, and I just ask that you consider me when you talk about your ex because everyone knows who you're talking about.' And I abided. I wrote vague jokes because we both live in L.A. and I didn't want to hurt him, start a war, press charges, be interrogated or harassed by him or his friends and family."
But, since posting the statement nearly three years ago, she's had a change in attitude.
"I wanted to move on and forget because I didn’t understand," she said. "I don't want revenge or to hurt him now, but it's unhealthy to keep this inside because my stand-up is pulled directly from my life. It's how I make my living. My personal is my profession. That is how I've always been; I make dark, funny [jokes]."
So, she explained, she is owning her experience and sharing her story with others in order to empower those who have also encountered abuse.
"So now I'm allowing this to be part of my story. It's not my only story, so please don't let it be. If you live in L.A., you've already started to hear my jokes about this and I ask you to have the courage to listen and accept it because I’m trying."
Stelling's experience was obviously horrific, and nobody should ever have to go through what she did. However, she has proven through her career and her attitude that these things can be overcome and that people are stronger than their abusers may believe them to be.