Stand-up comedian Beth Stelling has been on Jimmy Kimmel Live, @midnight, has a comedy album (brilliantly entitled Simply the Beth), and an upcoming Comedy Central special. She's a hilarious comic who
usually draws inspiration for her act from her own life, but for months she kept part of her life a painful secret. Stelling was involved in an abusive relationship, and was only able to leave this past summer. For a long time, her ex was able to convince her to stay quiet about her experiences. Apparently, he is involved in the Los Angeles comedy community and despite enduring that type of abuse, Stelling didn't want to negatively impact his career.
Eventually, the need to speak about her experiences became too big, and Stelling decided to speak out. She wrote that "it's unhealthy to keep this inside because my stand-up is pulled directly from my life". Since incorporating this aspect of her life into her routine, Stelling says that she has had fans approach her after shows to offer support or to implore her to continue sharing her story.
Inspired by that response, Stelling took her story to Instagram, in an emotional post, sharing intimate details of the extent and nature of the abuse she suffered. Please be warned, the images and content are jarring and might be upsetting or triggering.
Same girl in all of these photos (me). 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. 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. 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. I wanted to move on and forget because I didn’t understand. 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. 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. Already since talking about this onstage, many women have come to me after shows asking me to keep doing it. Men have shown their solidarity. An ex-girlfriend of this ex-boyfriend came to me and shared that she experienced the same fate. Then there was another and another (men and women) who shared other injustices at his hand that..
A photo posted by Beth Stelling (@bethstelling) on
Stelling's experience is uniquely hers, but also shares so many similar elements with other stories from other domestic abuse victims. She writes that "it's embarrassing" and that she feels "stupid" for staying with him "after being verbally, physically abused, and raped". When writing about trying to come to terms with what happened, she asks that fans "have the courage to listen and accept it". As a survivor, one of the most powerful statements Stelling makes is hidden within the paragraph and talks about her accepting the abuse:
Now I'm allowing this to be part of my story.
Ownership of traumatic events can often be one of the first steps to recovery. It was an incredibly brave move for Stelling to be so open about her experiences, especially in such a public forum. The response from those within the comedy community and those outside was immediate and supportive.https://twitter.com/kumailn/status/681548516896813056 https://twitter.com/laurenlapkus/status/681587649535164416 https://twitter.com/pattonoswalt/status/681593280623054849 https://twitter.com/SaraJBenincasa/status/681604131182739457 https://twitter.com/questlove/status/681608539224150016 https://twitter.com/AllieGoertz/status/681564717622497280
Domestic abuse is an issue often wrapped in stigma, leaving many victims too afraid, or too embarrassed, to speak out about their experiences. It was a courageous move by Stelling to share her story - which will hopefully inspire many others in similar positions.
If you or someone you know is involved in an abusive relationship, you can visit The International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies, which offers links to Domestic Violence Agencies in over 100 countries.