Comedian Beth Stelling revealed on Instagram late December that she’d been raped and abused by her ex-boyfriend – who she avoided explicity naming in the post. Stelling explained that for a time, she respected her ex’s wishes that she refrain from mentioning the relationship during performances because it would “hurt him” because they both socialize and work in the same comedy circles. So, she kept her standup vague with references to the relationship but with no criminalizing details.
The picture she shared on social media is a collage of photos showing the aftermath of the alleged abuse with a long caption explaining why she decided to go public with the story.
Her statement on Instagram is posted in full 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.”
It’s important that Stelling came out with this story because she’s not just standing up for herself and dismatling her abuser’s control over her life, she’s also blazing a path for other victims to come forward with their own experiences.
Domestic abuse and rape victims are faced with stigmatization and judgment – from police officers and even well-meaning friends and family.
“Why didn’t you leave sooner?”
“What were you wearing?”
“What did you say to make him mad?”
These types of questions put the onus on the victim instead of the perpetrator of the abuse. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the backlash abuse victims can face.
Since Stelling’s posting, two other ex-girlfriends of Hartmann have come forward with similar experiences. Although Stelling made a point not to name her ex-boyfriend, people pretty much immediately figured out it was another comedian, Cale Hartman.
Of course, Cale Hartmann made his own statement about Beth on his Facebook page:
“I was incredibly hurt to see my ex-girlfriend had made public accusations across all of her social media platforms that tell a story so far beyond the truth. The severity of her accusations are false and extremely harmful. I’m not sure she realizes the irreparable harm of her actions.”
“Everyone condemning me on social media must have some evidence beyond her word – they must know me in a way that I don’t know myself – they must know her personally and be 100% certain to “out” my name despite a single word from me. They have no such proof, no such certainty, no such reason for using my name. My career and life do not deserve to be taken away without some basic level of due process just because of an allegation on the Internet. She is being praised and lauded to no end while people take joy in destroying me as the new villain of the week. How would that make you feel?”
Interestingly, he never says in the post that he didn’t do it, he just says Beth is lying about the severity of the injuries and the situation. In fact, he goes on to claim that she is ruining his life because his reputation is being destroyed.
Let’s all have a moment of silence for Hartmann’s professional reputation.
Also, Stelling never outed Hartmann – she purposely avoided using his name. Hartmann is the one who linked himself to the story, actually. And somehow, through a series of truly abominable mental gymnastic, Hartmann comes away claiming to be the victim.
Luckily for Hartman, abusers of women can still go on to enjoy great success in our society. Just look at Chris Brown, R. Kelly and a host of other still-popular artists and actors who haven’t let those female victims take them down.