#WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft: a discussion we all need to be part of

When a video leaked earlier this week of American Football player Ray Rice punching his wife Janay in the face so hard during an argument that he knocked her unconscious, the internet erupted with outrage.

Rice has since had his contract terminated by his team, the Baltimore Ravens, and has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. But, in a move that has shocked many, his wife has stood by him and has blamed the media – not her husband – for the pain brought on her family.

She took to Instagram yesterday to say, “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 [off] for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.”

Many people have criticised Janay for not punishing her husband for his actions, and for not leaving him – either now or when the incident occurred back in February. Much as it might seem bizarre to stay in a relationship that is so clearly dysfunctional, it is not for any of us to say what someone in an abusive relationship should or should not do.

A conversation began on Twitter last night which highlighted the pain, confusion, anger and ultimately the loneliness that comes with being in an abusive relationship. Many women have shared their stories using the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. Some are stories of triumph and freedom, while others highlight just how easy it is to become trapped in an unhealthy relationship:

Many have praised the discussion for the awareness it is raising:

Although the hashtags have started a very important conversation, they highlight the stories of just a small number of women.

In Ireland alone, one in seven women have been a victim of domestic abuse. An average of 40 incidents of domestic violence a day were disclosed to the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline in 2012.

Domestic violence is not a rare occurrence. For many women and men, it is part of daily life. Although we might believe we are not affected by domestic abuse, it’s certain that that someone close to us is or has been. So whether you take a few minutes to scroll through the messages on Twitter, or whether you make the decision to speak up or ask for help – become a part of this important conversation.