"But why would you stay if someone was abusing you?"
That's a distressingly common response to revelations of domestic violence. After a video was released yesterday showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancée (now wife), Janay Palmer, and dragging her unconscious body from a hotel elevator, media pundits and online speculators have questioned why Palmer -- or any victim -- would remain with someone who abused them. The subtext: someone who stays isn't really being abused. Or equally troubling, such reactions imply that a woman can ensure her safety by simply leaving a violent partner.
An estimated one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes -- and most instances of intimate partner violence are never reported. On average, a victim leaves their abuser seven times before staying away for good.
So, when author Beverly Gooden saw people questioning the experiences of Janay Palmer and other survivors of domestic abuse, she stepped in to explain why "just leaving" isn't that easy.
"When I saw those tweets, my first reaction was shame," Gooden told Mic. "The same shame that I felt back when I was in a violent marriage. It's a sort of guilt that would make me crawl into a shell and remain silent. But today, 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. I can't speak for Janay Rice, I can only speak for me."
The author started sharing her own experiences in an abusive relationship through tweets, using the hashtag #WhyIStayed.
Next, Gooden invited other survivors to share theirs. These powerful testimonies speak for themselves.
All tweets below are embedded with permission.
These tweets put human faces to intimate partner violence, and remind us that escaping that violence isn't simply a matter of staying or going. The cycle of domestic abuse is far, far more complicated than that.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.