While 2015 was a year in which Beth Stelling released a stand-up record, Simply the Beth, and a Comedy Central Half Hour that landed her on Vulture’s list of the best specials of 2015, it was also one in which she was in a physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive relationship with her now ex. Today on Instagram, Stelling posted a photo of her legs covered in bruises along with a long note that detailed months of abuse she suffered from the relationship. “It’s embarrassing. I feel stupid,” she writes. “After being verbally, physically abused and raped, I dated him for two more months. It’s not simple.” For a time, she respected his wishes not to talk about the relationship in her stand-up, in an effort not to “hurt” him. She doesn’t name her ex, but says that it’s now important for her to speak out about this, because her work directly pulls from her life. “My personal is my professional. That is how I’ve always been; I make dark, funny,” she writes. You can see the post and read the full text, below.
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..
shattered my belief that I was an exception. I am not alone; unfortunately I’m in a line of smart, funny women who experienced this from the same man in our L.A. comedy community. I couldn’t stay in our relationship waiting for it to happen again and I won’t keep it a secret any longer so that a future woman has a fair chance of avoiding it. I don’t have all the answers. I’m doing my best to work through this. There are more stories out there from men and women and they don’t all involve getting raped by a stranger in an alley. Many are crapes (the coziest kind) in the comfort of your own bed.