Debby Ryan wants to raise awareness of dating abuse, and the Jessie star is starting with her own story.
The 21-year-old Disney star is teaming up with cosmetics company Mary Kay to shine a light on dating abuse, which the company said affects one in three young people. Ryan spoke to Fox411 about her own abuse at the hands of former boyfriend.
Ryan said she knows firsthand how difficult it is to get out of an abusive relationship.
“I got to a point of being grabbed, being locked out of rooms, being screamed at, having things thrown at me, cussed at, begged for forgiveness, cried to, all while trying to keep it together and justifying this relationship,” she said. “And that was the point that I realized maybe there was a red flag. What was weird was that I didn’t realize all the unhealthy things — the digital abuse, him demanding my phone passwords, the mental abuse, the manipulation, the emotional abuse.”
The Disney star said she was fortunate to have friends who were able to support her and help her leave the relationship.
But Debby Ryan said the breaking point finally came when her boyfriend attacked her and threw a phone at her head.
“He threw his phone at me and it shattered. I ducked and it shattered and… it was insane,” she said. “It was such a heavy situation. I didn’t realize until it got to that point that it didn’t add up and something was wrong. It was crazy. I was so strong in my career at that point. I was shadowing directors and beginning to direct. I had a producing contract. I was heading up my own series.”
Ryan was picked to star as the lead in the Disney show Jessie when she was 18, and the next year starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie Radio Rebel. Ryan is also a singer, recording the theme song for Jessie and singing in the band The Never Ending.
Ryan is opening up as part of the Mary Kay program Love is Respect. The program is investing $50 million to raise awareness and help women take steps to escape abuse.
Debby Ryan said it is an important issue but one that fails to register with many young people.
“What I think is really important is that a lot of people my age don’t realize that either this is where habits are formed, this is where behaviors begin, this is where things start to progress in a way that can sort of, if you’re not careful, can spiral out of control,” she said.
Though she admitted that opening up about her own abuse was difficult, Debby Ryan she she hopes others can take strength from her story and seek help.
[Image via The Huffington Post]