Yesterday afternoon as the aftermath of Ray Rice’s release and suspension continue to send shockwaves throughout the sporting community and beyond, two trends took off that begin to put everything in to perspective: #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. Initially, I chose not to read the tweets. I had already spent time writing about the situation, was engulfed in discussions about the situation and my Twitter mentions were too much to keep up with. I needed a break from it.
However, before I went to bed last night I decided to take a look. My mom had told me how powerful the hashtags were and that I should read them. I laid down thinking I owe it to these victims, these victims who are courageous enough to take 140 characters and explain their story. As I lay in my bed, my eyes filled with tears as I read tweet after tweet of women AND men who shared their whys. From not understanding what love was suppose to look like to being told over and over it would never happen again to believing things would change to believing the abuser wanted to change to being afraid of children getting hurt in the process to being afraid that leaving would literally mean a choice between life and death…the stories were gripping. They were REAL.
The tweets tell a story…a story of manipulation, fear, paranoia, lies, pain, anguish, hurt, sadness, depression, unworthiness, deceit, deception, persuasion, coercion, threats, humiliation, rape, assault. The tweets tell stories from those who have lived it. The tweets tell stories from those who have suffered through it. The tweets tell stories from those who made excuses. The tweets combat the assumptions I have seen spewed all over social media…those who blame the victim, those who make ASSUMPTIONS about why a person stayed or their actions, those who think it is easy to walk away from situations of this magnitude.
If you have not been in that type of situation then it will be hard for you to understand. I cannot fathom being in an abusive relationship. So instead of trying to understand it from my “I would never allow that to happen” point of view, I try to understand it from a why does this happen point of view? I am reading to see if I can understand where the disconnect happened in the victim’s life to justify the first blow they ever received. I am reading to understand what signs I should be looking for. I am reading to understand how I can help. I am reading to understand what more needs to be done. I am reading to understand why this topic is just now getting this type of attention. I am reading to understand how some got the courage to leave.
We rarely hear the stories of victory. We rarely hear the stories of the victims who left in the middle of the night and drove for hours just to start a new life, free from their abuser. We rarely hear the stories of the victims who secretly planned their escape for months. We rarely hear the stories of the victims who were one step from suicide but found the strength to decide that they were worth more than that. More than anything, #WhyILeft is a rallying cry. It is a rallying cry for those that are still living in the nightmare of abuse. It is a rallying cry to let them know that life outside of their situation, that they can be victorious and that love does not come with fists. It is a rallying cry for those that took matters into their own hands. It is a rallying cry for those who finally know their worth. It is a rallying cry that sends a signal to those who cannot understand…check your assumptions at the door because they have a story to tell.
P.S. There are so many causes out here that need our attention. We all cannot be fully dedicated to raising awareness for every cause that plagues our country/world but we can make a difference in certain areas. I challenge you all, if you are not already involved with a cause, to get involved. It should not take a national news story for you to want to help. Actions speak louder than words. What do yours say about you??