Domestic Abuse Survivor Brooke Axtell Delivers a Moving Speech at the Grammys

She shared her story ahead of Katy Perry's performance of "By the Grace of God"

Photo: Alison Buck/WireImage

Domestic violence survivor Brooke Axtell joined Katy Perry at the Grammy Awards on Sunday to share her moving story.

“After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me,” she said.

“I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain and needed help,” Axtell continued. “I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me.

“I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him. My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me. When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape.”

She concluded her impassioned speech with a message for others who might be experiencing domestic violence. “Authentic love does not devalue another human being,” she said at the Grammys. “Authentic love does not silence shame and abuse.”

Perry followed up Axtell’s story with a minimalist performance of “By the Grace of God.”

“It’s an honor to collaborate with Katy in this way. She has been very devoted to various aspects of female empowerment,” Axtell, 34, told PEOPLE earlier this week of the performance. “It’s going to bring a lot of encouragement and freedom to those who hear my story and know that they are not alone in this.”

Just ahead of her speech, President Obama delivered his own recorded message against domestic violence and sexual assault, as part of the White House’s ongoing “It’s on Us” campaign.

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