A major confession from Meredith Vieira. The celebrated journalist, 60, opened up on her new daytime talk show The Meredith Vieira Show this week, revealing that she was once in an abusive relationship.
Inspired to tell her story by the national focus on abusive relationships with the recent release of video showing disgraced NFL player Ray Rice punching his wife Janay Rice, Vieira shared her own experience. She joined a bevy of women and men who told their stories, largely using the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft on Twitter to explain their relationships.
“It’s a very, very complicated issue, so I wanted to explain to you why I stayed,” the former Today show anchor said. “I was in an abusive relationship many, many years ago as a young woman. I loved this guy.”
“It started out with, we would have a fight and he’d just sort of grab my arm,” Vieira explained. “You know, I didn’t think a lot about it. And then it turned into pushing me against the wall, then it went beyond that to actually taking his hand and grabbing my face and saying, ‘I could ruin your career if I wanted to and no one would want you.'”
Unfortunately, the fighting escalated between Vieira and this man, culminating in a night that she recalled to the studio audience’s horror.
“We shared an apartment, and he threw me into a shower, naked, in scalding water, and then he threw me outside into the hallway,” Vieira remembered. “We lived in an apartment building and I hid in a stairwell for two hours until he came, again, crying. [He said], ‘I promise I won’t do this again.'”
It wasn’t that night that she finally got out of the relationship, however.
“I continued to stay in that relationship until I was offered a job in another state,” Vieira disclosed. “That’s where I felt I had the ability to get away. When people talk about domestic violence, it is really, really a complicated issue. It’s not so easy to just get away. You think it would be, but it is not.”
While many people look at Janay Rice and victims in similar situations and wonder why they haven’t left the relationship already, Vieira said that it’s harder to do than it looks.
“This is going on, I’m a smart woman. A lot of people say, ‘Who would stay in that situation?’ Somebody maybe doesn’t have the wherewithal to get out, the means to get out — I had that. I had a job at the time, and I kept in this relationship,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of thinking about why. I think part of it was fear. I was scared of him and scared if I tried to leave, something worse could happen to me. Part of it was guilt because every time we’d have a fight he would then start crying and say, ‘I promise I won’t do it again.’ I would feel like maybe I contributed somehow to this. They’re saying this about Ray Rice’s wife, you know, that it takes two to tango.”
After news first broke this past February about an altercation between Janay and Ray Rice, the former Ravens player’s wife said in a press conference, “I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night.” She has stayed with her husband in the months since, releasing an additional statement after the video surfaced, standing by Ray Rice’s side.
After telling her story and explaining the struggles that she had in leaving, Vieira admitted that if her own daughter were in a similar relationship, she would tell her to “go, just go.” She then told her viewers that if they are experiencing abuse, they should reach out to shelters, call a hotline, or simply “tell somebody.”
Watch Vieira open up in the video above.
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