In the wake of the explosive surveillance footage released by TMZ Monday showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking Janay Palmer, his then-fiancee, inside an Atlantic City casino elevator, domestic violence victims took to Twitter to share their own stories of abuse, using a pair of hashtags: #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft.
The #WhyIStayed thread was created by Beverly Gooden, who says she was physically abused by her ex-husband for more than a year.
"When TMZ released the video of Ray Rice punching, dragging, and spitting on his wife this morning, the internet exploded with questions about her. Why didn't she leave? Why did she marry him? Why did she stay?" Gooden explained in a blog post. "Leaving was a process, not an event. And sometimes it takes awhile to navigate through the process."
Gooden shared her reasons for staying in a series of tweets, using the #WhyIStayed hashtag.
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
He said he would change. He promised it was the last time. I believed him. He lied. #WhyIStayed— Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden) September 8, 2014
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
I stayed because I was halfway across the country, isolated from my friends and family. And there was no one to help me. #WhyIStayed— Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden) September 8, 2014
I stayed because I thought love was enough to conquer all. #WhyIStayed— Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden) September 8, 2014
Gooden encouraged fellow victims to share their reasons, too. And they did.
Because I didn't know emotional abuse was domestic violence #WhyIStayed— Crystal S. (@SeymoreCrystal) September 8, 2014
He threated to take my son, made me feel like I deserved it and made me feel ashamed it even happened #WhyIStayed— Brittney Shackelford (@5ft_Hurricane) September 8, 2014
Because "If I can't have you, NO ONE will have you" was reinforced by my abuser daily. #whyistayed— Afton Monique (@VivaLaDiosa) September 8, 2014
Because it seemed normal, at the time. It wasn't. #whyIstayed— rachel dory (@racheldory) September 8, 2014
Because before you know it, everything is in his name and he can take it away when he's mad. #WhyIStayed— Brittany (@dearminerva) September 8, 2014
He was everywhere. He stalked me online, at work, and at home. I felt like no matter what I did he would find me anyway #WhyIStayed— Kori (@MsLoweToYou) September 8, 2014
He made me feel absolutely worthless. I thought he was the best I'd ever get. I thought that if I tried harder, he'd change. #WhyIStayed— Evan Avery Birch (@brassiest) September 8, 2014
The storytelling experiment drew raves from fellow Twitter users and domestic violence support groups.
#WhyIStayed is trending in response to people blaming Janay Rice for not leaving. Social media at its most brave and powerful.— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) September 8, 2014
Thank you to everyone who is sharing their #whyistayed stories. I relate so deeply to so many of you. This is healing. Thank you. <3— Kyria Abrahams (@KyriaAbrahams) September 8, 2014
The #WhyIStayed hashtag is very hard to read, but needs to be heard. Too many assumptions are made by others.— Rev-o-lution (@RevMindi) September 8, 2014
There’s an important conversation happening at #WhyIStayed about domestic violence right now. Listen, speak out, and pray.— Sarah Bessey (@sarahbessey) September 8, 2014