I don’t often talk about my abusive ex-boyfriend.
But when I do, it’s a joke.
True: He did hit me, and he did live in a studio apartment. But it wasn’t funny. And he was not confused. He knew exactly what he was doing.
Like most comedians, jokes are how I deal with trauma. It’s how I dealt with my mother’s battle with cancer and now bipolar disorder, and it’s how I dealt with my abuser.
“Okay, Nicole Brown,” my good friend Amy said to me, after I told her he hit me across the face, and I was leaving him. Being called the late Nicole made me laugh (re: my dark sense of humor), but it also made me realize I needed to get the f*ck out before it got worse.
I tried to leave him the next day, face still ringing, nose still tender from the smack.
“That would’ve been a great Vine,” he said, unapologetic after the incident. Things were always a joke with him. A drunken, hazy comedic act that never left his studio apartment in Koreatown and was always at my expense.
I forgot about my abusive ex for a while. But certain triggers will spark my memory of him: the eggplant emoji, "The Simpsons," anytime I see a Macklemore-esque haircut in the liquor section at CVS.
I didn’t talk about what happened because I didn’t want my abusive relationship to identify me.
But, now, with Beth Stelling’s viral Instagram post a topic of discussion, I can’t help but relive it. I’m not trying to do that thing where I ride on someone else’s viral coat tails, like when people make a celebrity's death about themselves.
Abuse isn’t just about me, it’s about everyone who’s ever been in an abusive relationship. And it's time for us to speak out and make it stop.
When I saw Beth’s bruises and read her words, I was reminded of my own experience and the pictures I never took.
I was reminded of the images forever engrained in my memory: a photo of my reflection, showing my red, freshly-hit nose and subsequent bump; a snapshot of the sling I borrowed from the medic at work after my abuser kicked me off his bed, and I landed on my elbow; my sullen face after he whispered to me out of nowhere, “I can’t wait until you turn 30 and realize you aren’t funny.”
Maybe that’s why there are so few women in comedy: because of men who oppress us like this assh*le; men who build us up and tear us down.
And this is what happens with abusive relationships: You can’t get out because your abuser convinces you that you can’t do better. But it's not true; it's never true.
I tried to get out of my relationship many times. But what made this situation even more difficult was that we worked together on a TV show. We matched on Tinder before the show started. I didn’t want to date him, but he convinced me to. It was the first of many things he convinced me to do over the course of our four-month relationship.
I broke up with him the day before Valentine’s Day. He got suspended from the show the following May -- that’s when I couldn’t take it anymore.
I had reached my breaking point. After telling him many times to leave me alone, he always found a way. He came into my space to unplug my iPhone charger from my computer one day, spilling hot tea all over my keyboard. I screamed,
The minute those words left my mouth, I knew: My private, abusive relationship had become public, and there was no turning back.
The process was long and gruesome. I had to come clean to everyone at work about what had happened between us. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one he was bothering in the office. I begged for them not to take action.
I couldn't help but think, "If he hit me when I was his girlfriend, what will he do when he thinks I’m the reason he’s losing his dream job?"
The show enlisted a bodyguard to follow me around at work, and I was put up in a hotel for the weekend after he was suspended. While this may sound glamorous, it was not. Every second of that time was filled with sadness and fear.
How did I let it get to this point?
And then came the meetings with the lawyers, where I had to reveal Gchat conversations and text messages to prove he was abusive. I was now reliving a relationship I wanted to be over for so long.
When the dust finally settled, I moved on. I pretended it never happened. I buried a joke about it amongst my set of dick jokes. I was scared to tell my story -- a story I’m sure sounds familiar to anyone else who’s been in an abusive relationship.
Thank you, Beth, for the courage.
Beth was not the only person her ex abused. I’m not the only person my ex abused.
I met the girl who dated my abuser before me, and he also abused her. She reached out to me when Beth shared her story. “Thinking of you,” she said. I was thinking of her too.
It made us both check social media for our crazy ex, and we hated we did that. The scariest part is no one knows where he is. “I wish every woman just tweeted the name of someone who abused them,” she messaged me.
We need to look out for each other. Abuse needs to stop.