2016 ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Awards Luncheon - Red Carpet
Credit: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE

If you love Grey’s Anatomy but hate spoilers (and aren’t caught up on season 12!), scroll away now, friends! In case you forgot during the break between the last season and upcoming season 13, Jo told Alex she couldn’t marry him, but didn’t say why. The big secret? She’s already married to someone else, and that person was her abuser. Obviously, this means that Grey’s Anatomy is going to get super real about domestic violence, and our goddess Shonda Rhimes shared what’s been going on in her head as the show enters new territory.

For Rhimes, talking DV isn’t just about adding another issue to the mix. It’s being authentic to Jo and her character.

“I don‘t think that I ever think about doing things, like, ‘Oh, we’re doing a domestic violence story as an issue,’” Shonda Rhimes told Entertainment Weekly. “It felt like it was time to tell Jo’s story, and it felt like it was time to tell Jo’s story especially in the context of Alex, who he is and how he grew up. Alex is so defined by who he used to be and who he is trying to become, and so is Jo.”

We’re so happy that Rhimes is the one taking on such a heavy topic. We know that she’ll treat the issue with the respect and attention that it deserves, especially as it plays such a major role in reality. It isn’t just theoretical, or something that happens on TV. It’s a part of our everyday lives.

She also thinks its important to talk about the complexities surrounding the issue.

“I love her as being somebody who has reinvented herself,” Rhimes said of Jo. “I also love her as being somebody who has overcome a lot of really, really bad things to make something of her life. She’s a survivor. The idea that she’s a survivor and that very act of being that person is threatening to that relationship is interesting. The fact that Alex is a guy who his response is to beat somebody up is a little problematic.”

Yes, yes, and yes. We’re so relieved that Rhimes is going to recognize the nuance not just of what it means to be a survivor, but what it means to be a survivor in a new relationship, especially with someone whose impulse is, very often, violence.

In general, Rhimes seeks to draw attention to the violence continually faced by women in a new light.

“This idea that women are often treated in this way is disturbing to me,” she said, “but it’s also very interesting to me to get to tell the story of Jo from this perspective of somebody who has walked away from a past that happened so long ago, and might have to face it again.”

We don’t know exactly what to expect from the new season of Grey’s, but we do know one thing: We’re here for all victims and survivors of domestic violence. We’re here, and we’re listening.