Yesterday, when Beverly Gooden, a human resources manager from North Carolina, learned that TMZ had released a horrifying video of NFL player Ray Rice knocking unconscious his then fiancée and now wife, Janay Rice, in an Atlantic City casino elevator, she didn't watch the video.
The reaction in the media and across Twitter was harder to avoid.
“The overwhelming tone was, ‘Why did she stay?’ ” Gooden told The Washington Post on Monday. Gooden, for one, can understand why a woman would stay with an abusive partner—she did for several years.
In response, she tweeted:
All these folks trashing women for staying in abusive situations have NO clue what happens the moment you reach for a door handle.— Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden) September 8, 2014
Many pointed to a similar set of circumstances:
Conversations like these are essential, but they come at a cost. Not everyone wants to publicly revisit traumatic experiences with domestic abuse.
Though writer Esmé Weijun Wang acknowledges that the #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft tweets are spreading awareness of domestic violence, in a post on her personal website yesterday, she explained why she decided not to follow the hashtags. It was just too painful. "Many of us are already terribly aware," she wrote. "The problem is that for some of us, including me, being inundated by stories of domestic abuse is not 'eye-opening.' Instead, it lights panic like a flame catching on kindling."
"I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I'm mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it's reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted [opinions] from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass of [sic] for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don't you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you've succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!"
Obviously, Ray Rice should be held accountable for his brutality. But as others have pointed out, if his wife chooses to stay with him, the NFL suspension and the Ravens' decision to drop Rice hurt her as well. Regardless of whether Janay Rice stands by her husband, this situation has no easy solutions, no quick path to healing.
At least right now, Janay Rice is staying, and the paradox is that the awareness and outcry raised by a hashtag meant to defend her and other women who have suffered may be contributing to her grief.