Justine Skye Opens Up About Being in a Physically Abusive Relationship

Justine Skye
Photo: Michael Stewart/FilmMagic.

There’s a reason Justine Skye released the music video for her song, “Build,” in October. The month marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as a domestic violence survivor herself, the 23-year-old singer knows too well of how many people are victims of domestic abuse. (According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, on average, 24 people a minute are victims of rape, physical abuse or stalking by an intimate partner, which results in more than 12 million people a year.)

In an interview with Billboard, Skye opened up about her own physically abusive relationship, and why shooting the video for “Build,” which is based on many of her real-life experiences with domestic abuse, was “triggering.” “I was one of those people who thought, ‘Oh! Nobody would ever put their hands on me,’” she said. “[Domestic violence] was not a thought for me back then. It just wasn’t realistic in my world. I knew [abuse] was a real issue, obviously. Still, in my world, it was not something that I thought would ever, ever happen to me.”

MORE: Here’s How and When to Call out Sexual Harassment If It Happens to You

Skye wasn’t the only domestic violence survivor to act in the video. Many of the other women in the video have also experienced domestic violence, which made the video’s depictions of abuse that much more real. “For my mother to watch [the filming was emotionally draining]. It was very sad,” Skye said. “I was thinking about all the women who have experienced this. I’ve played the video for some people, and it was triggering.”

However, Skye knows physical abuse isn’t the only way a relationship can be abusive. “Whether it becomes physical or not, it is obvious. People will hurt you in a relationship,” Skye said. [Perhaps] you choose to ignore all of the signs, even when they are directly in your face. You don’t want to believe it is true. You don’t want to believe this person could hurt you this bad, so you, I guess, pretend. Well, I’ve definitely done that many times.”

MORE: 6 Easy Ways to Build Trust in Your Relationship

Likewise, abuse isn’t reserved to only relationships either. After experiencing domestic abuse, Skye reflected on her friendships—some of which she realized were bad for her. “[Domestic violence] showed me a lot about the people around me then, too. There were people I thought were my friends. It just helped me get this tunnel vision to do exactly what I am trying to,” Skye said.

As for her advice for other domestic violence survivors, Skye wants them to “guard your heart” but “not give up on love.” “Understand that you are important. You are valuable. Your life is valuable. Your love is valuable! You deserve so much better,” she said. “It is hard to look at [new] people, and not think of the person that hurt you. So, [I’d say to them], “Guard your heart. Stay strong. Don’t give up on love. Do not completely cut people out. Be more aware of the signs.”