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Everyone should read the powerful stories of abuse and survival in #whyistayed and #whyileft

Janay Rice
Janay Rice
Getty Images
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

On Monday, the surveillance elevator video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiance and current wife Janay Rice (née Palmer) was leaked. There, in slow motion, you could see the moment when Rice punched his future wife and him dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator.

Looming over this violent act is the fact that Janay went on to marry the man who beat her — leading some people, most notably the anchors on Fox News's Fox and Friends,  to wonder why she, and other abused women, wouldn't just immediately flee an abusive relationship. They don't, because it's not that simple.

Hence the hashtag #whyistayed.

It was started by writer Beverly Gooden, who wrote, "I believe in storytelling. I believe in the power of shared experience. I believe that we find strength in community. That is why I created this hashtag." It began trending on Twitter on Monday night, as women used the hashtag to explain the psychology and the reality of their domestic abuse situations — some thought it would get better, others didn't have a place to turn, many felt shame, several wanted to keep the family together. The testimonies are powerful to read, and they shred the idea that it's easy for victims to leave their abusers.

According to the most recent national survey (2000) of American women, a survey conducted by the Department of Justice, a majority of women (51.9 percent) reported experiencing physical violence at some point in their lives. (Get the facts on violence against women here.)

In the wake of #whyistayed's popularity, a new hashtag, #whyileft was created. As the hashtag suggests, victims of abuse used the hashtag to explain how they found the strength to leave their abusive relationships, and get help.

The National Domestic Violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).