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I think I sweat my weight at the gym last night. It was Tuesday; I was up for interval sprints: 30 seconds blast off, 60 seconds to recover, 30 seconds blast off, 60 seconds to recover.  I was cruising. Just at minute 6, my peripheral vision caught the damning image that, if you are reading this post, you have seen by now.

Ray Rice
Casino Elevator.
Janay Rice.

People have had a lot to say.

The row of televisions channeled a firing squad of opinions about Janay Rice marrying her then-fiancé, critiques about the NFL, shouting matches between football fans and activists, piercing statistics about domestic abuse in America.  Scanning the room, I couldn’t help but conflate the commentary on the flat screens with the image of every person on a treadmill, including me. I thought, “We are all running with our own agendas.”

The publicity of incidents like these polarizes people. It forces us to dig into our beliefs, to suss out where we stand, what we are confused by, and fess up to not having answers to tough questions.  What are the interconnections between race and domestic violence? What happens when one’s experience is “outted” without her/his discretion?  How can we come up with new ways to tell these stories? Who will still be paying attention when news stops broadcasting coverage of the incident?

My sweat transformed into an emotional sweat – the kind that reminds you of the edge of your limits.  It was the kind of sweat that places a blanket on everything around you just enough to hear your own voice.  It is the heartwork that gets you to search for answers, to read, to tell, to try to feel less helpless.

Amidst the flurry of media since the “more public” coverage of this incident, one woman put her heartwork into action.  On September 8th, Beverley Gooden, a writer and survivor, created the #WhyIStayed Twitter hashtag.

#WhyIStayed (and #WhyILeft) is a place for women to tell their stories safely and collectively.  Throughout the feed, their voices touch on tough topics that domestic violence penetrates such as social mores, religion, love, shame, and guilt.  It’s a place to drop-off the emotional luggage – both as a witness and as a participant.  The value in virtual spaces like these is that they are are places for everyone to learn more about a complex issue that is too often simplified.

The NFL is important enough in this country to get every channel and radio station to talk about domestic violence, at least for now. We get to see the ugly head of ignorance, to recognize the heartbreakingly familiar voice of a victim, and to hear what people are doing about it.  It has me running sprints of hope.

AWP Volunteer

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