Matthew Santoro, a popular YouTuber whose educational comedy videos regularly top 1 million views, released a video with a more serious tone Sunday, describing his experience in what he says was a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. He claimed he had recorded the video for himself in September, but accidentally made it public, and when his fans noticed, he decided to leave it up. Further complicating matters, his allegedly abusive ex is also a YouTuber, and she claims his story was made up for attention.
In the video, Santoro is on the verge of tears as he describes how his ex forced him to push away the other people in his life, isolating him from his family and closest friends.
“This individual I was with was extremely jealous, viciously jealous,” he says. “If I had a female friend, I must have been cheating on her with them.”
He claims that when he tried to leave the relationship after having a panic attack one night, the emotional abuse escalated into physical abuse — that when he tried to leave this woman’s home, she stopped him and hit him in the face.
A month later, he says, he took her back — but she continued to be controlling and manipulative.
“Domestic violence knows no gender,” he says. “It happens to men and women.”
And then, crying, he continues: “And it’s something that men never talk about, because we’re made to believe that we’re supposed to be strong. I never talked about it because I thought that no one would believe me, no one would give a shit, and it’s sad that we live in a society where people have to feel like they’re supposed to keep quiet about these things. And it’s wrong.”
Santoro doesn’t name his alleged abuser, but he was known to be dating another YouTuber, Nicole Arbour. Arbour is largely (sorry) known for her video “Dear Fat People,” a controversial and unfunny series of observations about overweight individuals that somehow goes on for six minutes.
After being fired from a gig as — irony of ironies — the choreographer of a body-positive teen dance movie, Arbour spun the mean video as a marketing ploy. She told Cosmopolitan last month that “Dear Fat People” and other outrage-baiting rants in the same vein (e.g., “Dear Instagram Models”) had earned her five figures and jump-started her career.
“I’ve got a bunch of really cool TV offers coming my way right now, and lots of sponsors coming to me to make cool videos for them, branded content for them, or ad campaigns for them. Just lots of stuff coming in,” she said.
She also released her first single, “Monstar,” the day after “Dear Fat People,” but told Cosmo it was a joke and “not the actual release.” (Perhaps because it is very bad.)
Calculated exploitation of people’s insecurities for YouTube views and financial gain might make Arbour a cynical Mean Girls caricature — or someone who plays one on the internet — but it doesn’t necessarily make her an abuser.
She denied and mocked Santoro’s claims on Twitter Tuesday, writing, “Damn right I beat him!! …at Scrabble, Wii, chess, pretty much everything!!” and “If you are being abused, get help. If you are making up lies to get back at someone for breaking up with u six months ago. Also get help.”
She also attacked Santoro in the comments of one of her videos, writing, “Heard that little bitch I dumped months ago is still trying to use me to get attention on his vlog channel. Ew.”
(Santoro’s main YouTube channel has about 5 million subscribers, Arbour’s has around 200,000.)
The story is he-said-she-said at this point, with the exception of an interview given back in September by one of Santoro’s close friends and fellow YouTuber Rob Dyke. Dyke’s story matches up precisely with the events Santoro mentioned, but goes into more detail, including claiming that police got involved at one point. However, he doesn’t claim he was present for the incident of alleged physical abuse, so he’s taking his friend’s word for that part of the story.
It’s impossible for an outside observer to know who’s telling the truth, but what we know for sure is that this entire situation is horrible (and it’s now playing out in public). Either it’s a case of domestic abuse that carried on unreported for months, or it’s a case of YouTubers attempting to tank each other’s careers by manipulating public sentiment. The only favorable outcome is that these two both get on with their lives and that this tragic incident — in whichever way it turns out to be tragic — encourages victims of abuse to recognize the signs and look for help.