Following the aftermath of any big news story or controversy, people take to the Internet to voice their outrage. 

Twitter has been wildly successful in getting people’s opinions out there for the world to see, and this past scandal has been no different. A video recently emerged of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée and now wife, Janay Palmer, in the face in an elevator in February, knocking her unconscious. Rice has been released by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL; however, that did not stop thousands of Twitter users from using the hashtag #WhyIStayed to expose why leaving an abusive relationship is a lot harder than just walking out the door.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Women make up 85 percent of domestic violence victims. Females, age 20 to 24, are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. The scariest statistic is that most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police. 

Domestic violence can be more than just physical. It also includes emotional, sexual, financial and psychological abuse. The abusive partner isolates, manipulates humiliates, terrorizes and scares the victim. Abuse does not discriminate and can happen to anyone, no matter his or her gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or socioeconomic standing. It is a real issue that has been greatly overlooked. 

After the video of Rice beating his fiancée was highly publicized all over the Internet, many people were asking how Palmer could have possibly stayed with him after the abuse. Victims of domestic violence came forward and started to tweet about reasons why they stayed, to show people that it is much more difficult to leave an abusive relationship than people think. The hashtag #WhyILeft also emerged and showed the reasons why victims finally left their abusive partners. 

#WhyIStayed: I was made to believe I didn't have a choice. #WhyILeft: I wanted to live. 

I had to plan my escape for months before I even had a place to go and money for the bus to get there. #WhyIStayed. 

#WhyIStayed: because he never hit me and I didn't think verbal abuse and emotional manipulation was considered an abusive relationship. 

#WhyIStayed: because my word was the only evidence. 

I felt shame being a single mother ‪#WhyIStayed. I felt worse knowing my daughter saw him hit me ‪#WhyILeft. 

#WhyIStayed? I didn't know I was experiencing emotional and verbal abuse. ‪#WhyILeft: I realized I was worth more than his words made me believe.     

One very wise man asked, "Why are we asking women to explain ‪#WhyIStayed and ‪#WhyILeft? Shouldn't we be asking men why they abuse?"

This very unfortunate incident has given domestic violence victims and organizations the much needed platform to reach millions of people and raise awareness about this issue. It has also provided hope to the thousands of victims trapped and afraid to come forward with their stories.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic violence please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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