HYDERABAD: In the past week, a number of issues pertaining to women’s rights have been trending on the social media, and a couple of them caught our attention. Stories of domestic violence and emotional abuse are being shared by women under the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #Why-ILeft, while common people and celebrities alike are voicing their opinions against a national newspaper making news out of an actress’ cleavage. Ray Rice, the American footballer who played for Baltimore Ravens, was indefinitely suspended by National Football Association on September 8. He was accused of assaulting his then fiancee Janay Palmer in an elevator in February this year, and a surveillance video released by TMZ later proved the same. In what came as a shock to the Western media, Palmer had gone ahead and married Rice after the attack. Members of the media and citizens on the Internet began voicing their concern and criticising Palmer’s decision. Why did she choose to stay with him, they asked.
As a response to their questions, American author Beverly Gooden tweeted saying that she understood what Palmer was going through. Confessing to have been in a violent marriage herself, she said it is not easy for victims of domestic abuse to walk out the door. She called on her followers to share their stories under the hashtag #WhyIStayed. “I tried to leave the house once after an abusive episode, and he blocked me. He slept in front of the door that entire night. #WhyIStayed,” tweeted Gooden, while Rachel Miller said, “I was determined to make it work, wanted kids to have their dad, convinced myself that what he did to me wasn’t affecting them #WhyIStayed.”
The wave of tweets led to a parallel hashtag namely #WhyILeft, under which women shared reasons that pushed them to leave their abusive partners. Alli Stevens said, “Because I really did love & care about you #WhyIStayed. Because I love & care about me more #WhyILeft.” Gooden went on to write, “All these folks trashing women for staying in abusive situations have NO clue what happens the moment you reach for a door handle. I had to plan my escape for months before I even had a place to go and money for the bus to get there.” Closer home, writer Meena Kandasamy shares memories of her abusive relationship. “When I tell him that I want to walk out of the marriage, he wishes me success in a career as a prostitute, asks me to specialise in fellating, advises me to use condoms. I shrink and shrivel and shout back and shed a steady stream of tears. He smiles at his success. He wants me to feel like a fallen woman,” she writes. The author of The Gypsy Goddess ended the four-month-old marriage upon finding out that her partner had been married before and hadn’t yet divorced his first wife. The campaign has brought to fore stories of abuse from around the world to let survivors know that they are not alone. And most importantly, it tells the world that scrutinising the victim is not the way to go in any case of assault.