Feminism

Comedian Beth Stelling Speaks Out About Abusive Relationship

Yesterday, Beth Stelling took to her Instagram to post photos of bruises all over her body, saying that they were the result of her abusive ex-boyfriend. Stelling was recently dating comedian Cale Hartmann, who was affiliated with UCB and had some popular videos on Funny or Die. He also appeared in Key and Peele and 2 Broke Girls.

Immediately following Stelling’s post, Hartmann deleted his Twitter account (cached here — unfortunate timing on that “Pill Cosby” joke) and other prominent comedians commented on it, either indirectly as with Patton Oswalt:

…or pretty damn directly as with James Adomian:

If you didn’t want to click through to see Stelling’s bruises, here’s her story of her abuse:

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.

Kudos to Stelling for being brave enough to put all this out there, at a time when women are vilified online for sharing their experiences. And kudos to the other comedians, male and female, who are stepping up to support her.

Here’s Stelling making her debut on Conan from 2012:

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

Previous post

Quickies: Modern time, antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, and in defense of not cooking

Next post

Quickies: Defining GMOs, Reconsidering Groupies, and Neglected Diseases

1 Comment

  1. December 29, 2015 at 6:48 pm —

    Good for her.

Leave a reply