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WhyIStayed hashtag empowers domestic abuse victims

The hashtag WhyIStayed has been trending on Twitter for the past week as a unique and effective tool to subvert the usual conversation surrounding domestic violence.

Ostensibly, WhyIStayed is a response to the leaked video of former NFL star Ray Rice beating Janay Rice, his then-fiancee and current wife, in a hotel elevator, according to CNN. But the trend also engages with society’s tendency of blaming the victim in discussions of domestic violence. This engagement is a vital step toward alleviating the intense shame often heaped upon victims of domestic violence.

When the video first leaked, questions arose as to why Janay Rice did not choose to leave her partner, as opposed to why Ray Rice beat his partner in the first place. This is typical of domestic violence discussions. Rather than question the motives and behaviors of the abuser, people sometimes question why anyone would allow someone else to hit her. This choice pushes the shame of being abused away from the abuser and onto the victim.

People who ask questions like “Why didn’t Janay leave Ray?” do not understand the truly corrosive effects of domestic violence, or how much danger women who are abused by a partner are in. According to domesticabuseshelter.org, battering is the single largest cause of injury to women, and around 4,000 women in America die per year due to domestic violence. Approximately 75 percent of those women are killed when they try to leave an abusive relationship or after they had already left it.

WhyIStayed allows people who have suffered domestic abuse to discuss their experiences and subvert victim-blaming. Beverly Gooden, who created the hashtag, shared some of her own heart-rending experiences, such as “I stayed because I was halfway across the country, isolated from my friends and family. And there was no one to help me,” and “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 is an excellent and necessary way to pivot the conversation surrounding domestic violence away from victim-blaming. People who suffer from domestic violence need help and support, and this trend, through raising awareness, is an effective tool for providing that.