Beth Stelling is a comedic star on the rise with a hit standup record and upcoming Comedy Central special under her belt, but there is so much more to her than meets the eye and she recently revealed an unknown part of her in a powerful Instagram post.
Stelling endured physical, verbal and sexual abuse during her past relationship with fellow comedian, Cale Hartmann, who deleted his Instagram and Twitter accounts after Stelling posted a photo collage of bruises all over her legs and arms from one of his attacks.
WARNING: The image below is graphic and may be disturbing to some.
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..
“There are many reasons not to make an abusive relationship public, mostly fear,” she wrote in the caption. “Scared of what people will think, scared it makes me look weak or unprofessional.”
“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.”
Unfortunately, most women are not strangers to domestic and/or sexual abuse. Nearly one in four women experience physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Perhaps the prominence of abuse in American culture is why Stelling’s post resonated so deeply with many women and men who often remain silent about their own pain.
Although Stelling also kept quiet for some time as requested by her ex when she broke up with him, she realized it was time to do what was best for her and would contribute to her healing.
"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," she wrote. "It's how I make my living. My personal is my professional."
Since posting her collage, Stelling has received an outpouring of support and solidarity through social media.
One by one and the silence is gone. Well done. Comedian Beth Stelling speaks out about her abusive relationship https://t.co/7QG9MHZash— Rebekah Moore (@bekahethnomuse) December 29, 2015
Although this will now be a part of her identity to the public and those who didn’t know her name before will now associate her with this post and the abuse, it won’t stifle her career or growth. Her honesty and bravery in the post don’t make her look weak or like a victim. She simply reclaimed her body, her life and her story.
Banner Photo Credit: Twitter @SuppLocalMusic