Twitter had a real discussion about the various reasons victims stay in abusive relationships and how they finally find the strength to leave.
When the topic of domestic violence comes up, people are often quick to blame the victim if they are still with their abuser. That’s exactly what happened all over social media on Monday. It didn’t take long for the conversation to go there when video of Ray Rice attacking his now-wife Janay Palmer surfaced online.
People blasted Janay for staying with a man who brutally beat her and ultimately marrying him. They accused her of sticking around for the money. To no one’s surprise FOX News led that charge on TV when contributor Ben Carson jumped to Ray’s defense. “Let’s not all jump on the bandwagon of demonizing this guy,” said Ben. “He obviously has some real problems, and his wife obviously knows that, because she subsequently married him.”
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As support for Ray (or contempt for Janay) continued to build, it stirred up painfully visceral memories for writer Beverly Gooden. As she explained to Mic.com, seeing comments online motivated her to speak up on behalf of people who find themselves trapped in abusive relationships. That’s how she created the #WhyIStayed hashtag.
“I was watching the responses to the TMZ on my timeline, and I noticed a trend. People were asking ‘why did she marry him?’ and ‘why didn’t she leave him,'” Beverly stated, sharing that she’s found herself in the same position as Janay. “When I saw those tweets, my first reaction was shame. The same shame that I felt back when I was in a violent marriage. It’s a sort of guilt that would make me crawl into a shell and remain silent.”
She continued, “But today, for a reason I can’t explain, I’d had enough. I knew I had an answer to everyone’s question of why victims of violence stay. I can’t speak for Janay Rice, I can only speak for me.”
With that Beverly shared her story on Twitter using the #WhyIStayed tag, and it started with her explaining how her abuser went to great lengths to keep her from leaving. In one istance, she literally could not escape because he was in her way.
I tried to leave the house once after an abusive episode, and he blocked me. He slept in front of the door that entire night. #WhyIStayed
— Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden) September 8, 2014
He said he would change. He promised it was the last time. I believed him. He lied. #WhyIStayed — Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden) September 8, 2014
While her ex was physically blocking her path to freedom, members of her church aided in her mental and emotional captivity.
I stayed because my pastor told me that God hates divorce. It didn’t cross my mind that God might hate abuse, too. #WhyIStayed
— Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden) September 8, 2014
Eventually, Beverly was able to get out of her abusive relationship, but it was a lot more complicated than simply walking out of the door.
I had to plan my escape for months before I even had a place to go and money for the bus to get there. #WhyIStayed — Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden) September 8, 2014
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Sharing her story inspired scores of others to explain what kept them in their own abusive relationships. So many people were talking that #WhyIStayed became a trending topic on Twitter.
#whyistayed he told me I had no real friends, and turned them all against me & befriended them to show me HE was my only “true friend”
— bootyass (@undergroundbby) September 9, 2014
“You act like I’m killing you. You’re not even bleeding.” #whyistayed I was convinced I was overreacting. — Pardo (@blowticious) September 9, 2014
B/c he never hit me. Society has taught me emotional, verbal, & mental abuse is “not that bad” & “at least he didn’t hit you.” #WhyIStayed
— roopa cheema (@SJRoopa) September 8, 2014
#WhyIStayed – because he would threaten suicide if I showed signs of wanting to leave. — roopa cheema (@SJRoopa) September 8, 2014
Nowhere to go. To ashamed to admit what was happening to me. Didn’t know how to leave. Was told it was my fault. #WhyIStayed
— The Right Honourable (@DuchessCadbury) September 9, 2014
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One user summed everything up very succinctly with the following infographic.
#WhyIStayed pic.twitter.com/YdjiDd5eeN — maria lia calvo (@MariaLiaCalvo) September 8, 2014
At the same time, Beverly’s hashtag spawned another conversation, where survivors spoke on #WhyILeft.
#whyistayed because he swore he’d change #whyileft he didn’t
— Denise Caramagno (@Tu2Bene) September 9, 2014
#WhyILeft B/C I didn’t want my kids growing up thinking that violence was normal in relationships. — Sil Lai Abrams (@Sil_Lai) September 8, 2014
#whyIleft I didn’t want our son to grow up to be a wife beater like his father even though we suffered to survive financially #whyistayed
— Desiree (@TruckerDesiree) September 8, 2014
Photoset: hatzigsut: very chilling topic on twitter right now. i have my own reasons for #WhyIStayed, and… http://t.co/qDrp2ghrzN — Jasmine (@SUNSHINE_ROARS) September 9, 2014
It’s hard for many victims and survivors to step forward with their stories. Being able to do it in 140 characters in a supportive community started a conversation that needs to continue if more women and men (remember: they can suffer abuse, too) are to find their way out of dangerous relationships.
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