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A Conversation with Beverly Gooden

Beverly Gooden, the creator of the #WhyIStayed movement, tackled victim-blaming assumptions at a virtual event to the AU community on Tuesday, Oct. 5. 

The Kennedy Political Union (KPU), Women’s Initiative (WI), The Black Student Union, and Black Girls Vote co-hosted the event. KPU Director, Sonali Doshi, and WI Director, Kaniya Harris, co-moderated the event with Gooden.

Gooden created the hashtag #WhyIStayed to elevate the voice of domestic violence survivors after she watched a video of NFL player Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancee in a Las Vegas elevator in 2014. She said many questioned why Rice’s then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, stayed with the Baltimore Ravens running back after that. She knew the reason. She had lived through domestic violence herself. 

Gooden reflected on her experience surviving domestic violence as a result of the online dialogue with the Rice incident. The activist discussed how the reactions felt personal and targeted as she was someone who stayed with her abuser. 

She didn’t want the relationship to end, only the violence. Gooden elaborated by discussing how she clung onto the happy moments, hoping they would return rather than focusing on the violence.

“At that moment I felt such shame and guilt. Although it wasn’t about me, and no one knew about me and that I survived, I felt targeted by it,” Gooden noted after seeing online reactions.

#MeToo and domestic violence were not spoken about largely in public settings at the time of the Rice incident, according to Gooden. Nearly 200,000 people utilized #WhyIStayed not only for survivors but for others to share their support and stories of survivors they knew, said Gooden. 

“In the beginning, I wasn’t trying to go viral, and I didn’t have any intention behind it. After it went viral, I had to create an intention and I wanted survivors to find a community,” said Gooden.

According to Gooden, 24 people per minute experience domestic violence. The Black Women’s Health Project cited that domestic violence is the largest health issue facing Black women, with an upward of 40% of Black women experiencing intimate partner violence, according to the Institute of Women’s Research’s Status of Black Women in the US. 

At the end of the event, Gooden noted that she hopes readers will understand the barriers to leaving an abusive relationship and the systems that discourage that process, in addition to strategies to healing for those reading that have survived.

Beverly Gooden’s upcoming book “SURVIVING: Why We Stay and How We Leave Abusive Relationships” will be released on May 20, 2022. Her book will include anecdotes regarding her domestic violence situation and how it led to the process of reinvention once she escaped. 

“The reason I wrote the book was to talk about what it’s like to go from the life that you thought you were gonna live and how beautiful it was gonna be to realizing that’s not your life anymore,” said Gooden.

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