In the latest episode of her E! reality series, Christina Milian Turned Up, Christina Milian got incredibly raw about her experience with domestic violence, revealing that she was once in an abusive relationship with an ex-boyfriend who put a gun to her head.
Milian told her story in two separate scenes on Tuesday night’s episode, in the midst of promoting an app called Stop Attack that helps victims of domestic violence. The moment is chilling in part because of how rare it is to see those conversations on reality TV well after the abuse occurred—from not only the victim but a close relative who witnessed the aftermath of the violence.
Milian’s brush with domestic violence first comes up in a conversation with her mom Carmen about the Stop Attack app, which allows users to create a five-person contact list that’s alerted in case of emergencies. It’s described on the site as “an assault-response application” and “a virtual witness to assaults (verbal or physical),” at the cost of $3.99/year.
At one point while speaking to her mom, Milian recalls being in the gas station trying to call 911 while her boyfriend was grabbing her by the hair. She’s remembering a relationship she was in around age 17, before she was famous (she signed to Def Jam Records at 19), and her mom can barely get out words while sobbing and recounting herself how her daughter frequently covered up bruises to hide the marks from her then boyfriend.
“I remember he instilled that fear in you that if you left him he would hurt us. And because of that, you stayed in it, but like literally to the point that you know you almost lost your life,” says Carmen. “It was so hard to deal with you being like that and you just kept staying. [For] a mother to sit there and think that any day I was gonna get that phone call that you were gone.”
Their dialogue is a clear example of the emotional after-effects of abuse, particularly when Carmen gets hung up on the idea of her daughter returning to her abuser, calling her a “grown adult who kept choosing to go back.” Mom adds, “That’s your innocence stolen from you, Tina.” And it’s Tina, now 34 years old, who has to console her mom in that moment.
Later in the episode, in the clip above, Milian goes into more detail about the abuse, never revealing the identity of her abuser, in a frank chat with author/journalist Tanya Williams, who’s also a survivor of domestic violence.
“This is a personal moment for me because I’ve never opened up to anybody about being in that relationship,” says Milian. True, in interviews she’s usually bubbly and forthcoming, but rarely an open book.
When asked about the abusive relationship, Milian says to Williams:
“I was 17 going into 18 and I met a boy. And he had this sarcasm about him that I just thought was super funny. But that sarcasm turned out to be something a little bit more dark and I had no idea what I was getting myself into... He started to get in my head, like slowly, little bit by bit. So it was definitely very mental where it was like, I’m gonna break you down. I’m gonna make you feel bad about anything you’ve ever done. There’s nobody you could trust but me. And on top of that there’s nothing you can get away with without me knowing.”
In the confessional, Milian says, succinctly, “When you’re in an abusive relationship, you’re fighting for your life everyday. It’s not just one moment. You’re fighting for whatever you can, grabbing whatever you can.”
Milian also talks about the time her ex played Russian Roulette and put a gun to her head. “He literally put a bullet in the gun and he pointed it at my head,” she tells Williams, crying.
“Staring down the barrel of a gun is the scariest thing you could ever experience,” she adds during a confessional. “It’s not funny, it’s not for the movies. There’s a chance of life or death in one click. That’s it.”
When asked how she ended up leaving the abuser, Milian says she “woke up one day and realized that my family was just trying to help me. And gave myself the courage and the strength to not call him and invite him back into my life.”
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