Melissa Benoist may play a superhero on TV, but her bravery isn’t limited to the small screen. On Wednesday afternoon, the Supergirl actress posted an emotional video on IGTV with the caption “Life Isn’t Always What It Seems,” in which she explained in detail the abuse she suffered in a previous relationship.
The 31-year-old actress, who is now happily married to her Supergirl costar Chris Wood, described meeting a man when she had just gotten out of a relationship. "He was younger than me, his maturity obvious. For a period of time, I wasn't interested. I was newly single, gaining my bearing in a change in my life." However, she says they became friends, started dating and soon she felt like she was on a "runaway freight train.”
She said the red flags started when he began checking her devices and complaining when she had dancing scenes with male costars. (Benoist starred on Glee from 2012-2014.)
"Work in general was a touchy subject," she said in the 14-minute video. "He didn't want me ever kissing or even having flirtatious scenes with men, which was very hard for me to avoid, so I began turning down auditions, job offers, test deals and friendships, because I didn't want to hurt him."
"In retrospect, I see that each red flag followed a very clear path on things becoming violent," said Benoist, who claimed the first violent incident came five months into the relationship when he threw a smoothie in her face, and quickly escalated from there.
"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 a wall so hard the drywall broke, choked," she said. "I learned to lock myself in rooms but quickly stopped because the door was inevitably broken down. I learned to not value any of my property—replaceable and irreplaceable. I learned not to value myself."
According to Benoist, the turning point occurred when he threw his iPhone in her face, causing serious, lasting damage the night before she had to do reshoots for a film. "The impact tore my iris, nearly ruptured my eyeball, lacerated my skin and broke my nose. My left I swelled shut. I had a fat lip; blood was coursing down my face…After it happened complete stillness blanketed the room. We panicked…We made up a flimsy story together: I had tripped and fallen down the stairs of our deck and hit my face on a potted plant…And then we laughed together when he said my face was cute and looked like Squirt from Finding Nemo because my eye had become bulbous.” (Benoist retold the potted plant story in a 2016 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.)
this is so sad knowing that she got this from abuse and not being a “klutz” and she just laughs it off pic.twitter.com/N4jkFP5fTl
— 𝐩𝐚𝐨𝐥𝐚 supports melissa (@vintagevlogs) November 27, 2019
The actress said she got the strength to leave after a friend visited her at work. “She sat me down and said she wanted to talk about something important and I immediately knew where it was going…It was the first moment I spoke about the abuse to someone and I can’t describe the amount of relief and solace I felt.”
Benoist never named the abuser, and only described him as younger than her and someone she connected with after getting out of a relationship. She dated photographer Nick Vorderman, 37, from 2008-2012, and was married to actor Blake Jenner, 27, who she was with from 2012-2016.
Benoist followed up her video with an Instagram post tagging @futureswithoutviolence and urging domestic violence sufferers to call 1-800-799-SAFE.
Her Supergirl costars, CW alums and other celebrities took to social media to show their support:
#istandwithmelissa This is beyond brave, this is heroic. Like a poppy rising from the ashes, Mel you are a powerful example of how a beautiful life can bloom from the deadliest of conditions. I love you dearly and am thankful you’ve shared your story ❤️ https://t.co/HHbZldQVLT
— Chyler Leigh (@chy_leigh) November 28, 2019
— Jon Cryer (@MrJonCryer) November 28, 2019
— David Harewood (@DavidHarewood) November 28, 2019
So proud ❤️ such an inspiration https://t.co/rOzOROYcD8
— Danielle Panabaker (@dpanabaker) November 27, 2019
Thank you for sharing your story. You are brave beyond measure and your words give strength and hope to so many women. Sending you so much love sister https://t.co/uLJt5oFhEt
— Caity Lotz (@caitylotz) November 28, 2019
This is what strength looks like. Thank you for sharing this powerful video. You are an inspiration. END IPV NOW. END VIOLENCE NOW. Melissa Benoist Shares Her Story Of Domestic Violence In Emotional Instagram Video https://t.co/oRVq7fPCZn via @Deadline
— Julie Gonzalo (@julie_gonzalo) November 28, 2019
Very proud of & impressed by @MelissaBenoist for sharing something so indescribably painful & personal in order to maybe help someone else who’s suffering from IPV (Intimate Partner Violence). Pls watch her video/share it https://t.co/BCAmIZovIE If you need help call 800-799-SAFE https://t.co/27QZJvhTiO
— Elizabeth Tulloch (@BitsieTulloch) November 27, 2019
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) November 28, 2019
You just saved someone’s life today. I’m certain of it. Thank you for using your voice for the powers of good.
— Julie Plec (@julieplec) November 28, 2019
You're an amazing woman. I love you, lady.
— Sam Witwer (@SamWitwer) November 28, 2019
— Candice Patton (@candicepatton) November 27, 2019
— Juliana Harkavy (@JulianaHarkavy) November 28, 2019
We adore you. Thank you for sharing your story ❤️
— Nicole Maines (@NicoleAMaines) November 28, 2019
This is one of the bravest and most powerful things I’ve ever seen. I’ve suffered DV and never had this level of eloquence to describe the conflicting feelings of it. Nor have I had the courage to so explicitly explain the scenario. What an amazing young survivor @MelissaBenoist https://t.co/oaTeeBhYET
— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) November 28, 2019