Fans of Instagram influencer Katie Salzano would have never expected that the mom who often posts loving photos with her daughter Kaia, had gone through so very much. In a recent gallery-style post to the social media platform, Salzano shared a number of pictures that appear to show injuries caused by abuse. Swollen lips, bruising on her neck and face, scratch marks, and more tell the story of someone who has clearly endured much suffering.
The person who she says is responsible for the abuse is a man that many sports fans will recognize, former NFL player, Michael Antwon Bennett, who was a successful running back for the Oakland Raiders. The player was ultimately diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and Salzano partly blames the brain injury for Bennett’s aggressive behavior. In the post, she claims the NFL is not doing nearly enough to prevent CTE and does very little to explain its potential side effects to its players.
Katie Salzano gave the world a behind the scenes look at what can happen when someone has CTE.
In a lengthy caption that is necessary for Salzano to speak her whole truth, she lays out a number of things that led to her eventual abuse. “Dear @nfl,” she begins. “I don’t think you told everyone the full truth about CTE. So let me take over for you…”
She goes on to describe how she believes CTE changed his life beginning with a diagnosis when he was just 33-years-old.
“At age 33 he was diagnosed with moderate traumatic brain injury, dementia, encephalopathy amongst other mental illnesses/neurocognitive disorders,” Salzano wrote. “He is 42 now, and it now presents as schizoaffective disorder with delusions of morbid jealousy and persecutory paranoia. There is no more Michael left.”
“The only way I can describe what I experienced watching CTE kill the man I love is, it was literally like a demon possession,” she revealed. “His eyes would gloss over and just look empty. Looking back at pics now, I can see it so clearly. And I never got to say goodbye. One day he was just gone.”
She goes on to describe herself feeling like a possession to Bennett and that he made her life with him unbearable.
“The man that used to love me, now won’t stop torturing me and all I ever did was love him,” she wrote. “I have become his possession in every single way. And I’m not the one to be abused or in a situation like this. I don’t even know how it happened, but I’ve been trying to get out for years and we haven’t even been together since Kaia was 9 months old, but he won’t ever let me go.”
“CTE has turned him into a clinical psychopath, or antisocial personality disorder,” Salzano proceeded. “These delusions all center around me. No one else sees them. It’s like my own private hell that no matter what I do I can’t escape. And in his mind, they are very real. And they’ve changed. They keep multiplying and getting scarier.”
She goes on to say that Bennett had never been abusive before his diagnosis, “not even verbally.” The mom uses the word “terrifying” to describe the way he has changed. “I don’t even know how to stay safe from this. And it’s changed, it keeps getting worse. I’m strong af, but I can’t fight this, he’s taken everything. Including my voice.”
CafeMom reports that Bennett has had troubles outside of his relationship with Salzano citing a 2012 FBI sting that resulted in wire fraud charges and time in federal prison.
That’s not the worst of it. In 2017, was sentenced to five years in prison after it was discovered he stole approximately $225,000 from Salzano’s parents.
According to the Boston University CTE Center, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
Early symptoms of CTE usually appear in a patient’s late 20s or 30s, and affect a patient’s mood and behavior. Some common changes seen include impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and paranoia.
As the disease progresses, some patients may experience problems with thinking and memory, including memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and eventually, progressive dementia, with cognitive symptoms tending to appear later than mood and behavioral symptoms.
This sounds a lot like what Salzano described in her own personal experience with Bennett. But, he’s certainly not alone.
Aaron Hernandez is probably the best-known case. He committed suicide in prison after murdering a friend. His lawyer blamed CTE for his actions. There are dozens of other athletes including boxers who have been diagnosed with the brain disease.
We think Salzano is very right to bring up the NFL and CTE to help bring more visibility to the damage the disease does to its players and, in her case, to her entire family. Her brave post garnered many, many comments nearly all offering support and thanking Salzano for shining a light on a very dark problem.
“I am marveling at your bravery in sharing such sensitive and traumatic details,” one person wrote her. “Pour it out, girl. Hold those responsible who should be held responsible! I’m a survivor of a different kind of violence, and I can’t imagine not being able to get away from assailant for YEARS. Do what you have to for you and your girl and don’t let the nay sayers into your head.”
“Keep walking in the confidence that you are doing what’s right,” another person added. “I pray you have all the support you need as you venture through what I’m sure [it] feels like a living hell. Be safe, be well.”
If you are experiencing domestic abuse or know someone who is, contact The National Domestic Abuse Hotline and/or visit their website to learn more. CALL: 1-800-799-SAFE, VISIT: thehotline.org
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