Monday, December 2, 2019

Melissa Benoist Shares Experiences With Intimate Partner Violence

In an Instagram video she posted last week, Supergirl star Melissa Benoist shared that she experienced intimate partner violence in a previous relationship.

The full video is currently up on YouTube here, and in it she details how a previous romantic partner emotionally and physically abused her. Benoist did not name the previous partner, although some in the media have attempted to fill in the blanks based on the timing of some of the incidents she refers to. Out of respect for the fact that Benoist didn't name him, I won't speculate here.

Instead, I'll offer my story.

When I was 18, in one of my earliest relationships, my partner was emotionally abusive, including regularly belittling me, isolating me from my friends and family, cheating on me, and making us keep our relationship a secret (always complicated and "easy" for abusers to justify in queer relationships). Even after I broke up with this person, they continued to stalk me and break into my email account to keep track of what I was doing, who I was communicating with, and who I was hanging out with.

I didn't have many tools at the time to recognize much of this behavior as abusive, let alone to effectively counter it. After years of work, including therapy, martial arts and self-defense training, and feminist education and analysis, I am in a very different place now.

My past experiences with abuse also inform why I have little to no tolerance for abusive Internet behavior, especially those who, for instance, stalk and harass me through my Twitter account even after I've blocked them.

The fact is, especially after more than 10 years engaging with folks on the Internet, I almost immediately know how to recognize abusers and their abusive patterns, and the best course of action for me is to simply refuse to engage with them because what they desire more than anything is to keep their target trapped in an abusive cycle on their terms, not yours.

This is not to say that Internet abuse is the same as physical violence. In fact, I don't think it's useful to compare or rank which types of abuse are "worse" than others. To put it simply, and to paraphrase Tig Notaro in One Mississippi, "they're all bad."

I'll just offer that I'm sorry Benoist experienced intimate partner violence. I have long admired her acting on Supergirl, but even aside from that, no person should have to endure abuse in an intimate, or any other, relationship. And, I hope she is getting any help and support she needs to deal with the trauma from her experiences.

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