Last week marked the opening day of the NFL season and within a few days the national spotlight was shining an ugly beam on one of the league’s star players. On Monday the world was seeing the horrific altercation between Baltimore Raven’s star Ray Rice and his wife Janay in a casino elevator where he knocked her out cold.  The video itself is shocking – startling – sad.  The reaction to why Janay Rice would not only stay with this man, but go ahead and marry him, and as of yesterday publicly defend him, has people scrambling to understand the intricacies of domestic violence.  Opinions toward this woman vary from outrage to skepticism to compassion for her personal decisions.  What anyone who understands domestic violence will tell you is that it is more complicated than any outsider can comprehend, and we should all put our judgments to the side.

One North Carolina woman became so furious with the public ridicule being placed on Janay Rice for staying with the man who attacked her so viciously that she took to Twitter with the hashtag #WhyIStayed.  A victim of domestic abuse herself, Bev Gooden went on Twitter to vent but what happened was a viral movement, prompting victims of domestic abuse to share their own stories of staying.  Elle Magazine calls the response the most important conversation of the week. The trending topic has also caught the attention of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, making victims aware of their services. As of Wednesday morning, the hotline was experiencing an 84 percent increase in call volume – up from the average 500-600 daily calls to over 1,000.

Today Gooden penned an essay that is directed to herself and other victims who stayed or are staying out of fear of leaving.  Gooden reinforces that leaving is not an event – it is a process – and for those contemplating leaving, it has to happen on their terms, when they are ready – but know that there is life waiting on the other side.

To join the conversation, follow #WhyIStayed. Anyone needing help can call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 24 hours a day, with complete confidentiality.