The Why I Stayed campaign began in 2014 as an inclusive movement of not just one story, but over 200,000 stories of survival, triumph, and healing.
I stayed because he was my best friend.
I stayed because I didn’t have money of my own.
I stayed because he was good to me, most days.
I stayed because I wasn’t ready to leave.
Every now and then I’m reminded of the reasons why I stayed. At times, I lay in bed and think of where I was just five years ago.
At a university event this past spring, a student hugged me and said, “my friend stayed and it hurt me. All I wanted was for her to leave.”
Intimate partner violence hurts. It hurts the victim and it hurts loved ones.
There is still so much confusion about “staying”. After #WhyIStayed went viral, subsequent (and necessary) hashtags arose, such as #WhyILeft and #HowIHelped. So many voices were heard that day, and it was beautiful.
But society is not opposed to victims "leaving" or communities "helping". It is “staying” that is the scandal.
It is staying that society at large condemns. It is staying that breeds victim blaming. It is staying that we struggle to comprehend. We rejoice when survivors leave. We celebrate when communities help. We demoralize victims who stay.
So, I think we must reexamine our reactions to the power of individual choice. I stayed because I knew what was best for me. I stayed because I wanted to make it out alive.
On this one year anniversary of #WhyIStayed, let's recenter our thoughts on those who have made this impossible choice, and learn how to support them right where they are.
And after we recenter, let’s begin to ask victims of intimate partner violence the question that only they can answer: what do you need?
(used with permission, all contact info intentionally omitted)
After reaching out to a few brands, I still had no corporate backing for the Bolt Bag Project. But as my grandmother always said, "one monkey don't stop no show!"
I still don't know exactly what that means, but I figure I should keep the party going with or without support. In the beginning, I purchased about 200 items myself + bags. But that is simply unsustainable.
The afternoon of my very first speaking engagement, I checked in to the hotel and headed straight for the bathroom to take a shower (it's now a ritual of mine to take a steaming hot shower prior to speaking - it's calming and opens up the lungs). When I walked in, I saw four bars of soap, lotion, mouthwash, shampoo, and conditioner. One me won't use four soaps in one night.
So I opened one soap, and put the rest of the toiletry items in my suitcase. The next trip, I did the same. And the next. And the next. And every hotel I've stayed in since, even if it's for leisure, I'll collect unused toiletry items. If you stay more than one night, guest services will replenish the items every morning (I collect every item, every single day).
And that is how hotels have inadvertently donated to domestic violence victims. See, one thing I've learned is that you don't need permission to reach a goal. You need creativity, determination, and motivation. My motivation is the memory of survival. Every time I see unused bars of soap in hotel rooms I get so excited knowing it will refresh the beautiful skin of a person who has escaped a nightmare.