Trigger warning: the following article possesses sensitive content about domestic violence.
“Twenty-four people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. And I was one of them,” said Beverly Gooden.
In 2014, news broke about Ray Rice, former running back for the Baltimore Ravens, beating his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an elevator, and proceeding to drag her battered body out of it.
Twitter exploded with comments directed at Palmer, questioning why she would stay with a violent man and confidently stating that, if they were in her shoes, they would leave him. However, no one asked the blatantly obvious question—why would Rice do that to a person he loves?
Feeling the guilt and shame resurface from her own trauma, Gooden challenged this social response with the hashtag #WhyIStayed, tweeting statements like “I stayed because I didn’t have money of my own” and “I stayed because I wanted to make it out alive.”
Several other women followed suit, using #WhyIStayed as a platform to share their untold perspectives on why they decided to stay in abusive, unhealthy and/or violent relationships.
“Many people tend to question survivors of abusive relationships. They may say things such as, ‘Why didn’t you just break up with them? Why didn’t you leave sooner? Why couldn’t you just walk away?’” said SUNY New Paltz Title IX Coordinator Emma Morcone. “This type of victim-blaming questioning led Gooden to start the #WhyIStayed movement, giving space for survivors to shed light on the challenges of leaving and living in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.”
The Title IX Working Group helps to identify and develop ongoing community education around issues of healthy relationships, sexual violence, sexual harassment and sexual discrimination.
On Tuesday, April 16, at 4 p.m. in Lecture Center 100, Gooden gave her talk, “Why I Stayed: The Complexities of Living in Unhealthy, Abusive and Violent Relationships,” where she analyzed how society views victims and offered suggestions on how communities can constructively and sensitively respond to them.
Gooden first shared her moving personal story of being physically abused by her now ex-husband. After over a year of violence, Gooden left him in the dust.
“I realized I wanted to live more than I wanted to be married to him,” Gooden said.
Gooden then highlighted three reasons “why we stay”—dependence, fear/threats and love. To respond to the frequently asked question of ‘Why didn’t you just run?’ Gooden emphasized the fear victims face with the statistic “70 percent of victims experience violence two weeks after ending a relationship.”
To foster domestic violence awareness among the community, Gooden mentioned 10 warning signs of abuse, some including extreme jealousy or insecurity, possessiveness and isolating you from family or friends.
“For many students, they may not recognize the signs of being in an unhealthy or abusive relationship,” Morcone said. “They may hear the word ‘domestic violence’ and think, ‘this doesn’t apply to me.’ They may not realize where they can turn for support or how to leave an unhealthy and dangerous situation.”
Gooden ended her talk by offering three ways to prevent unhealthy relationships: observe your surroundings, feel empathy by identifying with pain and speak out against abuse.
Changing the conversation from ‘why do they stay’ to ‘why do they abuse,’ Gooden answered this question with, “For me, I think the common one I hear most of the time is that they think it is okay, they think this behavior is normal and we should adapt to it, and they can get away with it and a lot of the time they do get away with it.”
If you or a friend needs help, please reach out to a Title IX coordinator at 845-257-3675 or call the New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906.