Almost an entire year after actress Melissa Benoist shared a video in which she described her experience with intimate partner violence in a past relationship, actor Blake Jenner has identified himself as her alleged abuser in a lengthy statement he posted to Instagram on Thursday.
“I take full responsibility and accountability for the hurt that I inflicted during my relationship with my past partner—emotionally, mentally, and yes, physically.”
Despite asserting his desire to “take full responsibility and accountability” for the hurt he inflicted, Jenner’s statement also contains a number of lines that seemingly attempt to minimize the abuse Benoist says she experienced at his hands, referring to the former couple’s “shared brokenness” and “co-dependency,” and repeatedly following up his own confessions of abuse with accusations about the harm Benoist allegedly caused him, writing that there was “mental, physical, and emotional abuse inflicted from both ends.”
“I think what I’m trying to get at is that this relationship—in all of its toxicity and turbulence—was the product of two broken people over the span of years.”
A number of the accusations Jenner makes about the abuse he claims to have experienced at the hands of Benoist are uncannily similar to the accusations she made about him in her initial Instagram video. Jenner claims that the toxic jealousy Benoist described interfering with her work life and friendships was also mutual—that he also had to pass on jobs because of Benoist’s alleged jealousy of his female coworkers, that she isolated him from his friends, and that she was also physically abusive towards him. (Jenner also specifically alleged that Benoist gave him a broken nose, one of the exact same injuries that Benoist says she experienced after Jenner allegedly threw a phone at her face).
In contrast to Benoist’s comprehensive accounting of the countless incidences of physical abuse she alleges happened during the course of their relationship, Jenner only ever takes responsibility (or even addresses) for one specific instance of physical abuse—the incident that caused the most visible violence to Benoist, and the only incident that required a trip to the hospital and calls to both of their teams. Jenner claims that it was an accident, writing that “I threw my phone aimlessly and it hit my former partner in the face.”
However, Benoist alleges experiencing countless other incidences of physical abuse:
“The stark truth is, I learned what it felt like to be pinned down and slapped repeatedly, punched so hard the wind was knocked out of me, dragged by my hair across pavement, headbutted, pinched until my skin broke, shoved into a wall so hard the drywall broke, choked.”
Despite the way that Jenner frames the physical violence he allegedly experienced at the hands of Benoist in his statement, in Benoist’s initial video she actually discusses how after her former partner’s emotional and mental abuse had escalated to physical violence, she began to fight back, saying “I experienced firsthand that violence begets violence.” Nowhere in Benoist’s statement does she deny that the relationship was mutually harmful—in fact, she takes accountability for the ways that this relationship turned her into a person “she never could have imagined lurked inside of her,” talking about the ways that it led her to lie to her loved ones and shirk work responsibilities.
In his six-slide Instagram post, Blake Jenner only directly speaks to the accusations that Melissa Benoist made about the abuse he allegedly enacted upon her in one slide. Instead, Jenner chooses to spend most of the statement centering himself—talking about his own growth through therapy and explaining the alleged mutual toxicity and abuse in the relationship.
In fact, Jenner actually ends the paragraph where he confesses to one specific instance of physical abuse against Benoist (the only time in the statement where he directly names a way that he allegedly harmed her) by once again centering himself.
“However, as hard as it has been to come to terms with it and as hard as it is for me to even describe that moment in detail now, whatever the intention may have been, I am responsible for the pain that I caused her in that moment and beyond. And it is something I am still working on forgiving myself for.”
This is one of, if not the only, instance in the statement where Jenner actually directly takes accountability for how his actions harmed Benoist, instead of talking about how she allegedly harmed him, or how more generally about they allegedly harmed each other. Real accountability is not compatible with attempts to deflect or distract (or to pick and choose which accusations are worth a response).
I won’t presume to know what happened between this couple, but there is one thing I can say for certain—this statement is not what it would look like for Blake Jenner to take “full responsibility and accountability” for the harm he allegedly caused in his relationship with Melissa Benoist.