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Ray Rice Abuse Video Sparks A Powerful #WhyIStayed Conversation About Domestic Violence

In response to the video showing NFL player Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée unconscious, women and men shared their own powerful stories on Twitter. BuzzFeed News spoke to the woman who began the hashtag.

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In the disturbing footage, Rice is seen knocking Janay unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator. The NFL, which had previously given him a mere two-game suspension for the incident, suspended Rice indefinitely after the footage was made public.

After the video sparked a series of ill-informed, victim-blaming comments on social media, the hashtag #WhyIStayed emerged on Twitter to highlight the reality of domestic violence.

#WhyIStayed was started by writer Beverley Gooden, who was physically abused by her former husband for over a year. Gooden told BuzzFeed News she was inspired to start the hashtag after seeing people ask why Janay didn't leave Rice after the incident, and how she felt shame when she saw people ask that question.

"It was the same shame that I felt back when I was in a violent marriage," Gooden said. "But yesterday, 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."

She said that although she could not speak for Janay, she could speak for herself. "My hands were shaking when I sent that first tweet, but it didn't take long for others to join me. I wanted my power back, my power to have my voice heard."

Here are the tweets by Gooden that started the hashtag.

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

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

4:47 PM - 08 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

I stayed because my pastor told me that God hates divorce. It didn't cross my mind that God might hate abuse, too. #WhyIStayed

4:48 PM - 08 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

He said he would change. He promised it was the last time. I believed him. He lied. #WhyIStayed

Beverly Gooden@bevtgooden

He said he would change. He promised it was the last time. I believed him. He lied. #WhyIStayed

4:51 PM - 08 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

4:52 PM - 08 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

I stayed because I thought love was enough to conquer all. #WhyIStayed

Beverly Gooden@bevtgooden

I stayed because I thought love was enough to conquer all. #WhyIStayed

4:53 PM - 08 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

I stayed because I was halfway across the country, isolated from my friends and family. And there was no one to help me. #WhyIStayed

4:53 PM - 08 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

You think you know but you have no idea.

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

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

4:52 PM - 08 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

All these folks trashing women for staying in abusive situations have NO clue what happens the moment you reach for a door handle.

Beverly Gooden@bevtgooden

All these folks trashing women for staying in abusive situations have NO clue what happens the moment you reach for a door handle.

4:45 PM - 08 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

After Gooden shared those tweets, both women and men began sharing their first-hand insights about abusive relationships.

Note: BuzzFeed News has gotten permission from each person to use their tweets.

#WhyIStayed I was 24 the first time he hit me. We𠆝 just gotten married. I was 25. I was 26. I was 27. and finally, I found my way out.

Tamara Warren@tamaratam

#WhyIStayed I was 24 the first time he hit me. We𠆝 just gotten married. I was 25. I was 26. I was 27. and finally, I found my way out.

3:56 AM - 09 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

I believed I deserved it #whyistayed I knew my future children didn't #whyileft

Leslie Beslie@lintacious

I believed I deserved it #whyistayed I knew my future children didn't #whyileft

2:49 AM - 09 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Abuse steals your self-esteem and dignity. You stop trusting yourself. #whyistayed

Meghan Murphy@MeghanEMurphy

Abuse steals your self-esteem and dignity. You stop trusting yourself. #whyistayed

9:02 AM - 09 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

I was determined to make it work, wanted kids to have their dad, convinced myself that what he did to me wasn't affecting them #WhyIStayed

Rachel Miller@ReIgniteRomance

I was determined to make it work, wanted kids to have their dad, convinced myself that what he did to me wasn't affecting them #WhyIStayed

2:32 AM - 09 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

#whyistayed There was no money to get out, or place to go. Domestic abuse knows no gender.

Montgomery Maxton@MontMaxton

#whyistayed There was no money to get out, or place to go. Domestic abuse knows no gender.

4:42 AM - 09 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Others commented on how important the tweets were and why everyone should read them, and soon over 28,000 had been sent using the hashtag.

There have been over 28K tweets about #WhyIStayed, according to Twitter trends. And that's just in one day/night.

Elana Zak@elanazak

There have been over 28K tweets about #WhyIStayed, according to Twitter trends. And that's just in one day/night.

4:02 AM - 09 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Instead of tweeting nonsense at me about why she married her abuser, read #WhyIStayed.

Zerlina Maxwell@ZerlinaMaxwell

Instead of tweeting nonsense at me about why she married her abuser, read #WhyIStayed.

2:30 AM - 09 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Everyone should read powerful stories of abuse and survival in #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. This behavior is unacceptable. Confront it.

Robert Caruso@robertcaruso

Everyone should read powerful stories of abuse and survival in #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. This behavior is unacceptable. Confront it.

2:01 PM - 09 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Now #WhyILeft is trending on Twitter too, as people explain how they left their abusive partner.

#whyistayed: He told me "no one will ever love you like i do" #whyIleft: I realized that no one should ever "love" me like he did.

kirin_rosemary@kirin_rosemary

#whyistayed: He told me "no one will ever love you like i do"
#whyIleft: I realized that no one should ever "love" me like he did.

6:13 AM - 09 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

That it is never as simple as walking out of the door. There are so many layers to domestic violence. It's not easy to leave someone you love. It's not easy to leave when you have no resources and nowhere to go. It's not easy to leave when you are threatened with additional violence. It's not easy to leave when you remember how it used to be, or when they romance you during the good times, or when they promise it is the last time. Or when there are children involved. Because you believe in love and you believe in them.

Gooden said the response to the hashtag has been incredible: "It just goes to show that when you are given the avenue to speak, to be heard, your voice will find the ears of those with a heart to listen."

Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rossalyn Warren at rossalyn.warren@buzzfeed.com.

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