Discussing her brief marriage to boxer Mike Tyson on Wednesday’s episode of The Wendy Williams Show, Robin Givens said, “I would like to believe I’m a better person for it—more compassionate, more loving.” Givens filed for divorce about eight months after their February 7, 1988, wedding, saying Tyson had threatened to kill her and was prone to violent rampages, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Givens faced backlash at the time (she was reportedly described as “the most hated woman in America” in the press). But as Williams pointed out, Givens was ahead of her time in speaking out about the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of a powerful man.
“Somebody told me what you said, somebody said, ‘You were like ground zero of #MeToo,’” Givens recalled. “I pray that anything I’ve gone through, however difficult it was for me, helped somebody else.” She told a story about hiding from Tyson in a kitchen closet with a group of people, her sister Stephanie among them. “How long are you going to put us all through this?” she said her sister asked her through tears. She left Tyson soon after that. “You have a hard time sticking up for yourself, but it’s easier sticking up for people you love,” said Givens.
Givens additionally refuted a story Tyson likes to tell about finding her in bed with Brad Pitt after their divorce. “Never happened,” said Givens.
In a 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters that aired in September 1988, about three months after her marriage to Tyson, Givens alleged that her life with him was “torture, pure hell, worse than anything I could possibly imagine.” It’s stunning to go back and watch the interview, as Givens runs down a list of Tyson’s abusive behavior as he sits silently and looks on, right next to her.
“He gets out of control: throwing, screaming,” she said. After Walters asked, “Does he hit you?” Givens said, “He shakes, he pushes, he... swings. Sometimes I think he’s trying to scare me. There were times that it happened that I thought I could handle it, and just recently, I have become afraid. I mean, very, very much afraid.”
Tyson went on to be convicted of raping 18-year-old Miss Black Rhode Island Desiree Washington. He served less than three of his six-year sentence and is a registered sex offender. Nonetheless, he has remained a beloved fixture of pop culture—in the past 10 years, he released a bestselling memoir, performed a one-man show, launched a cartoon series, and amused people so in The Hangover and The Hangover Part II.