Eighty-five percent of women in the United States have been victims of domestic violence, according to Violence Policy Center, and that number includes Ashley Graham.
On a recent episode of her podcast, Pretty Big Deal, the 30-year-old model opened up about her experience in a “physically, mentally and verbally” abusive relationship after she was asked for advice from a fan who was also leaving a similar situation. Graham—who first talked about the relationship in her 2017 book, A New Model—said the abusive ex’s name was Carlos, a man she met when she was 19 and was in a relationship in New York with for two years. “He was a functioning alcoholic,” Graham said. “He also hated who he was. He physically, mentally and verbally abused me. And I couldn’t see through any of that. I couldn’t see through the fact that I was actually worth more than what this man had provided for me.”
Graham called the first year of the relationship, which was her first serious relationship, “torturous.” Then, in her relationship’s second year, Graham told her loved ones she and Carlos were broken up, despite still being together. In her book, Graham recalled Carlos chasing her with a butcher’s knife, throwing glass bottles at her and doing other violent acts. When the couple finally broke up after two years, Graham recalled feeling “embarrassed” for the power her ex had over her.
“I was so ashamed of the person I had become in the relationship with him that it wasn’t even about weight,” Graham said. “It wasn’t even about how I felt when I looked in the mirror. It was about the fact that I let this man take ownership of who I was and my actions for myself, for my business, for my friendships. I couldn’t even share the fact that I was still hung up on him with my friends because this was just so embarrassing. I think what happened then was I carried that burden into my next relationship.”
After struggling in her next relationships, Graham decided to become celibate to figure herself out after leaving an abusive relationship. “I felt like I allowed what Carlos did to me, where he put so much power on me, and I allowed him to put that power on me and have that stronghold over me, that I had to be celibate for a year,” Graham said. “I was like, ‘I ain’t giving it up for nobody.’ Cause I gotta figure out what it’s like to not have sex, to not a man in my life and to not bring all of that baggage into my next relationship.”
As for her advice to the fan, Graham suggested she delete her abusive ex’s contact information, as well as reminded her of her worth. “You’re worth way more than what this person put you through,” Graham said. “First of all, congratulations for getting out of the relationship. Delete his number. Delete all of the text messages. Unfollow him on everything that you can. Do not go stalk him, even though you want to, even though sometimes I still go look up Carlos on Facebook and he’s not doing jack shit with his life. Don’t go back. “