Comedian Beth Stelling has experienced a breakout year for her career, thanks to her stand-up record, Simply the Beth, and a half-hour comedy special on Comedy Central.
But her professional triumphs hid an abusive life at home. On Monday, she posted a photo collage of a woman with severe bruises covering her legs and arms, revealing in the caption that they came from the hands of her then-boyfriend.
“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,” she wrote. “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 went on to explain that she broke up with him during the summer not “because I didn’t love him, it was because of 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 first, she opted to keep the abuse a secret at his request. “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,” she continued. “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.”
But coming forward, she says, is part of “her story.” And, sadly, it’s the story of many women around the world. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have have been the victims of intimate partner crime.
“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,” she wrote.
The end of Stelling’s Instagram comments were her indication that there’s even more to the story — and that she wasn’t the only victim of the unnamed partner’s abuse.
“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…” she wrote.