If you’ve been on social media the past week, you’ve probably seen posts with #WhyIStayed incorporated into them. The hashtag began trending nationwide after disturbing video footage was released showing Janay Palmer being knocked unconscious and dragged out of an elevator by former Baltimore Raven’s football player, Ray Rice. The incident occurred in February between the engaged couple, who have since gotten married, but the full video had not been made public until this past week. The video of the incident put a spotlight on domestic violence but also caused people to participate in victim blaming – asking what Janay did to provoke her partner and why she stayed with him.
Beverly Gooden, the woman behind the #WhyIStayed, is a survivor of domestic violence and was stunned by the criticism aimed at victims like Janay. After reading twitter posts from users who had been victims of domestic violence, Gooden tweeted her own story and ended it with #WhyIStayed. She hoped that the hashtag would form a kind of community. Within an hour, the internet exploded with powerful yet chilling stories from other victims of domestic abuse.
“Why doesn’t she just leave?” is a question posed by most when they hear about domestic violence. They don’t realize that victims can’t “just leave.” Abusers hold all the power. Victims are scared, ashamed or humiliated and the nation is getting a glimpse into the world of those victims and why they stayed.
Let’s not judge a victim for why they stayed, but applaud them for why they left. Victims should be given support and encouragement, not criticism and blame. It takes strength to be able to leave, strength not every victim has on their own. Domestic violence awareness should be supported every day.
The video footage and trending hashtag brought into focus the prevalent issue of domestic violence. Every nine seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten. Help break the cycle by getting involved and raise awareness to end domestic violence.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please call the Hubbard House 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 904-354-3114 or 800-500-1119. Hubbard House can help.
By: Kaleigh Williams