American actress and Supergirl star Melissa Benoist has detailed her experience surviving domestic abuse at the hands of a former partner in a powerful Instagram video.
She describes her former partner as a man who was "magnanimous, charming and funny."
"He became a friend that made me laugh and feel less alone - one that made me feel special and worthwhile."
Once the pair started dating, though, Benoist said it was "0 to 60 catapult" with the relationship turning into a "runaway freight train."
"The abuse was not violent at first, at first it reared itself at its head to me as common dysfunction coming from his insecurity and depression. He confided in me the tragedies he had experienced, the injustices and insecurities he had been dealt. It was all very real and easy to sympathise with, making it alarming easy to excuse when the damaged man that I fell for became too wounded to control himself."
The actress said in the beginning he started off snooping on her devices, getting angry if she spoke to another man and policing her clothes when they went out because he didn’t want other men looking at her. It eventually impacted her work prospects with the actress turning down job opportunities to placate the perpetrator.
"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 each red flag followed a very clear path on the way to things becoming (physically) violent, because it is often preceded by mental, emotional, psychological abuse, which are all very sneaky things."
At the time the actress said she was reluctant to leave because of the “sheer terror of a failed relationship” and feeling she could not "say no and disappoint someone and still be ok."
"At the time it felt very good how much he coveted me; how much he seemed to treasure who I was. He loved me and I loved him and I was going to make it work."
The first incident of violence occurred five months into the relationship when the perpetrator allegedly threw a smoothie at her face. The smoothie smacked her cheek and exploded over the sofa. This then escalated to regular physical attacks.
"I learned what it felt like to be pinned down and slapped repeatedly, punched so hard the wind would go out of me, dragged by my hair across pavement, head-butted, pinched until my skin broke, shoved into the wall so hard the drywall broke, choked," she said.
She described being in 'denial' and being filled with shame, and fearing speaking out and putting herself in greater danger. She reported locking herself in rooms and having the door broken down. After abusing her, the alleged perpetrator would put her in a bathtub and turn on the tap to help her soothe her injuries.
"He'd kneel next the to me crying self-hating tears. I still held on to the sympathy and empathy I felt for the brokenness he admitted to having. His apologies were heartfelt and effective…I thought I could love him enough to make him see a way out of violence. Deep down I never believed he would change. I just fooled myself into believing thinking I could help him. I consciously deluded myself into thinking forgiveness could heal him."
The tipping point came when the perpetrator threw an iPhone at her face, allegedly damaging her eye sight, an event that helped her confide in a friend about the abuse and gain the confidence to leave the relationship.
"The more people I let in, the more I was bolstered," she said.
In Australia, one in four women are reported to have experienced sexual or physical intimate partner violence, with one woman killed every week at the hands of a current or former partner.
Recently there have been calls for Australia to follow the UK and Ireland to criminalise 'coercive control'. Experts label coercive control as a “malign pattern of domination” that can include “emotional abuse, historical abuse, isolation, sexual coercion, financial abuse, cyber-stalking, and other distal forms of intimidation.”