Scandal's Bellamy Young Talks About The Importance Of Sharing Our Trauma Stories - Exclusive Interview

Bellamy Young might be known for her roles in "Scandal" and "Promised Land," but her upcoming stage performance, "Bonded," brings awareness about survivors of family trauma. Young's one-day performance will benefit MenHealing, a charity that helps men over 18 heal from sexual victimization. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of men in the United States experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, and one out of 38 men endured rape or attempted rape.

The play, written by Tyler Martin, follows Emmett, a young, queer male whose second DWI charge might put him behind bars. Young plays Emmett's older sister, Nellie, who returns to Texas to discuss options for Emmett. The story focuses on an honest dialogue about family abuse, gender stereotypes, and religious intolerance.

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Young and Martin told us how important it is to share our stories about trauma so we don't feel alone. First, Young shared why she loves roles that spark conversation.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Connecting with others

Bellamy, what role has impacted you the most? Was it "Scandal," or was it something else?

Bellamy Young: Certainly, "Scandal" changed my life. There's no other fulcrum point to point to. For that, I am forever grateful. But what I love most is being a part of something that's part of the cultural dialogue. "Scandal" managed to do that in a variety of ways about gender, about politics, about gender politics, about women empowerment, about resentment in marital relationships — lots of watercooler moments for us, thanks to Ms. Shonda Rhimes. 

But I was also proud ... [in] "Promised Land" this spring, we were trying to tell an immigrant story from an immigrant point of view, because it's so often told through the lens of white people or through the lens of statistics for politicians. We were trying to tell the human story, and I was proud of that.

I'm proud to be a part of "Bonded" because this is something I learned long ago in Al-Anon — we're only as sick as our secrets. The more that we can shed light on anything that we might feel alone about, we'll realize there are so many other people willing to stand in that light with us. The projects that mean the most to me are the projects that can possibly mean the most to others.

Something very dear to my heart is your work with the Humane Society and Blankets of Love. Tell me about this advocacy work that you do.

Young: It's the highest honor [and] the highest joy to get to share your joy with people. When you can use any sort of grace that's been afforded you to lift anyone else up, that's absolutely the best feeling in the world. I feel like it's a duty and part of the job. Really, it's a selfish act because it feels so good to be able to do any sort of help in the world.

I did this morning get to do onboarding for CARE, which just celebrated their 75th anniversary. I got onboarded this morning as their first Gender Equality Advocate Ambassador. That was a big honor for me. They do such amazing work, and we were plotting how to get the message out.

It's a hopeless time. We've gone through some hard years lately, and we all feel a little helpless up against it. But [we want] to make some content that is both educational, but also inspirational in that [idea of], what's the chestnut — "If you save one person, you save the world." If you do one thing, it makes a difference. I feel like people are needing that these days.

How 'Bonded' came together

Let's talk about this project, "Bonded." It hits the stage Saturday. Tyler, how did you come up with such a rich story?

Tyler Martin: I have been very fascinated by the concept of trauma bonding. It's such a beautifully tragic concept and experience that a lot of people go through. [For] anyone who has been through a traumatic experience, it's so helpful to be able to share your story, to be able to know that someone else has heard it. [This story] was my way to explore that concept in a very real, raw, human way.

In so much media, we have a "moral lesson" kind of media. This is a themed project, essentially, but "Bonded" is not. "Bonded" is a conversation between two people that we're witnessing and seeing how their trauma and their past experiences have manipulated itself into their bodies, and their relationship, and their entire lives. We're seeing in these two moments in the show, the first and second act, how that has come to be in their lives and surfaced. There's something really interesting and exciting about that.

Bellamy, this is a little departure from "Promised Land" and "Scandal." What led you to this project?

Young: I was lucky enough that Tyler reached out. We have a mutual friend who connected us and asked me to read it, and it moved me so much. This is also familiar territory in my family. The story spoke to me immediately. Like Tyler's saying, the thing that hooked it is you read a lot of things, but the thing that really grabbed me is that he wasn't writing the issues — he was writing characters. It's beautiful character work. That was so exciting to be offered as an actor. It also had the facet of serving MenHealing that made it an irresistible opportunity.

The importance of healing male survivors of trauma

You connected this with MenHealing. Talk to me about how you connected with this group.

Martin: Community was important to me from the beginning of this play. I am so against the inaccessibility of theater in New York, but more than that within the topics, there's such an inaccessibility regarding these topics. Very early on, I was trying to think outside the box of how I could ground this project even from this initial public reading in the community. I found MenHealing and the beautiful work that they do. They are centered and grounded in community. All that they do — it comes from a community standpoint.

So many survivors feel isolation. That's such a common thread, specifically with male sexual victimization. We see so often there is stigma and societal stereotypes that are put on individuals that isolate those people. To be able to work with people who not only from a theatrical standpoint can make it more accessible, but also from a survivor standpoint, it's like, why not?

Of course, I reached out to them, and [it was] such an easy, wonderful connection that happened. They loved the script and connected with it. They're such kind people. They are genuinely good people. We have worked so well together, and I'm so excited to continue working with them. I can't praise them enough.

Young: These issues affect one in four women and one in six men. It seems too taboo to talk about, so we all feel alone and like it only happened to us, but it really happened to so many of us. The more we can spread light and spread love and spread community, it spreads healing. I didn't know until I started this project, and MenHealing has the data on the fact that men particularly heal better in community. [That's] all the more reason we should come together.

"Bonded" hits the stage Saturday, October 15 at 3 p.m. at Theatre Row's Theatre Five in New York City. The event will include a Q&A with the show's stars and creative team moderated by Kenton Kirby. A limited number of tickets are available and open to the public, but attendees must RSVP to attend the event in person and the live stream by registering here.

This interview was edited for clarity.