In a post on Monday, comedian Beth Stelling revealed that she was abused and raped by her now-ex boyfriend. In a powerful, upsetting Instagram post, Stelling discussed her history of “being verbally, physically abused and raped,” alongside images of her heavily bruised legs and arm. Stelling, who released a comedy album and had a stand-up special on Comedy Central this year, explained to followers, “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.”
Referring to images of her battered legs and arm, Stelling wrote,
When I broke up with my ex this summer, it wasn't because I didn't love him, it was because of this. … It's embarrassing. I feel stupid. After being verbally, physically abused and raped, I dated him for two more months. It's not simple.
Stelling didn’t name her ex, who, like her, is a comedian in the LA area. She recounted, however, that after she broke up with him, he said to her, “I just ask that you consider me when you talk about your ex because everyone knows who you're talking about.” She kept quiet about the abuse at first because, she said, “I wanted to move on and forget because I didn’t understand.”
In her post, she explained why she’s coming forward now:
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 professional. That is how I've always been; I make dark, funny.
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.
Stelling’s post emphasizes the emotional complexity of abuse, and the fact that there are many reasons that people stay in abusive relationships and many factors that lead so many instances of physical and sexual violence to go unreported.
Stelling explained that, since becoming more open about her story in her stand up, many audience members, male and female, have given her words of support, and some have shared their own histories of abuse. She stressed the important fact that a lot of sexual violence doesn’t follow the “masked stranger attacking you on the street” stereotype:
There are more stories out there from men and women and they don't all involve getting raped by a stranger in an alley. Many are crapes (the coziest kind) in the comfort of your own bed.
Stelling is right: According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), 47 percent of rapists are friends or acquaintances of their victims, and 25 percent are intimate partners. As Stelling says, this is not "an uncommon issue."
A number of Stelling’s colleagues in comedy and entertainment have taken to Twitter to show their support and praise her bravery in choosing to talk about such a difficult topic:
Find out more about Beth Stelling and her comedy on her website.