Yesterday morning, a video of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice violently attacking his then-fiancée Janay Palmer was released by TMZ, causing outrage across the world.
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.
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.
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.
Now #WhyILeft is trending on Twitter too, as people explain how they left their abusive partner.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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