Inside Marvin Gaye's Toxic Marriage With Wife Janis Hunter

No doubt two-time Grammy-winning soul singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye belongs among the 20th century's most accomplished and influential musicians. Several of his albums and songs are widely considered to be all-time greats, such as "What's Going On," "Sexual Healing," and "Let's Get It On," among many others, per AllMusic. Including his death in 1984 at the hands of his own father (an act his father claimed was self defense, but for which he was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter, per Biography) Marvin Gaye's personal life tells a different story. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Gaye's toxic marriage with his second wife, Janis Hunter.

Gaye first met Hunter in 1973 when she was only 17 years old — half Gaye's age. Nevertheless, an affair began between the two, and by 1977 the musician was divorced from his first wife, Anna Gordy — sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, per AmoMama. Gaye married Hunter, with whom he had two children, Frankie and Nona. Though passionate, Gaye's marriage with Hunter was filled with substance abuse, sexual impropriety, and trauma, as Hunter recorded in her memoir, "After the Dance: My Life with Marvin Gaye," per New York Post.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

He was abusive

As reported by the New York Post, Gaye and Hunter's initial attraction was strong and undeniable. By the time his wife was in her early 20s, though, and mother to two children, Gaye's eyes began to wander as his substance use issues worsened. Gaye had also encouraged Hunter to engage in sex acts with other people for his enjoyment prior to their marriage, but she never agreed, per New York Post.

As Janis Hunter recalls in her memoir, she was in her early 20s when Marvin Gaye coerced her into a nonconsensual sex act with another couple, and she relented against her will. In this instance, the musician did not participate in the act himself, but only observed, per the New York Post. Even though Gaye continued to be abusive, the couple stayed together until 1982. After writing her book and dealing with her trauma, Hunter has made peace with her experience, as she explained in an interview with New York Radio WBLS, available on YouTube, adding that she's particularly grateful for her beautiful children. "That I lost myself in someone else — someone as remarkable as Marvin Gaye — is no longer cause for self-condemnation," she wrote in her book.

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).