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Breaking the Domestic Violence Silence

Posted: September 17, 2014, 10:46 a.m.
by Michelle Pierce.

Why would she date someone like that? What is she thinking? If I were her, I would have left a long time ago. From the outside looking in, we, as spectators, can’t comprehend the reasons behind staying in an abusive relationship.

Leaked video footage of Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice assaulting his then fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer, on an elevator sparked a Twitter movement giving women an outlet to voice their struggles with domestic violence. Using #WhyIStayed,  more than 100,000 women are sharing their reasons why “leaving” is easier said than done.

Beverly Gooden,  a victim of domestic violence, created the hashtag after she read responses to Rice’s video asking why didn’t she leave? Gooden’s campaign gained momentum after she began tweeting the reasons why she stayed in her abusive relationship. Shortly after her hashtag went viral, a new, uplifting hashtag emerged, #WhyILeft. The simple hashtag empowers many victims to share their stories, as well as remind them that they are not alone.

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The leaked video footage may have finally given domestic violence the attention it needs. Seeing Rice violently knock Palmer out cold humanizes the issue, pinning a tragedy to a cause. Social media fueled the attack, giving women the power to stand up for what they believe in and let their voices be heard. In 140 characters or less, the public took off with the Twitter campaign leading the NFL in the right direction and demanding action. The power of social media led Ray Rice to unemployment, Janay Palmer to a broken heart and many of victims free from an abusive relationship.

In the past, the National Football League failed to act on similar cases dealing with domestic violence, but Rice’s offense sparked a serious uproar bringing light to the tragedy. The Ravens and the NFL are using the tweets and personal stories to better educate the players on the unfortunate problem. Through social media, we are exposed to the pain and isolation the victims face on a day-to-day basis. The voices of women who lived in silence for so long provide a learning experience that can result in a cultural change. The league plans to form partnerships with anti-domestic violence groups to prevent similar actions from recurring.

The NFL is responsible for setting a positive example of sportsmanship, dedication and respect to the public. It’s a football league that many athletes aspire to play in one day. In order to maintain a positive image, the NFL can’t push major offenses under the rug anymore.


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