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Ray Rice Incident Sparks Hashtag For Domestic Violence Victims

BOSTON (CBS) – A pair of Twitter hashtags created after video showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking his wife in an Atlantic City elevator was released is providing people on social media the opportunity to share their own domestic violence experiences.

The hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft gained traction on Tuesday, intended for victims to tell their stories of why they left abusive relationships, or why they stayed in them.

Thousands of people used the hashtags in the aftermath of Rice's release from the Ravens and indefinite suspension from the NFL for punching then-fiancé Janay Palmer, who is now married to the former running back.

"#WhyIStayed - because he convinced me I wouldn't make it on my own and that I was worth nothing. #WhyILeft - I realized he was wrong," one tweet read.

Another woman posted "#WhyIStayed : The children #WhyILeft : The children."

But as is often the case with social media, the hashtag also led to controversy.

The official account for DiGiorno Pizza used the hashtag and tweeted "#WhyIStayed You had pizza."

The company quickly deleted the tweet and explained that it was a simple misunderstanding.

"A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting," DiGiorno tweeted before spending much of the afternoon sending personalized responses to users who were offended by the tweet.

In Waltham, Jessica Teperow works with domestic violence victims as a part of Reach Beyond Domestic Violence.

Teperow said that when she saw the Ray Rice video, her heart went out to victims of domestic violence because seeing the incident likely triggered memories of their own abuse.

"When I go out and do trainings about domestic violence, the number one question I get is why does somebody stay?," Teperow told WBZ-TV's Paul Burton.

"There are so many different reasons why someone chooses to stay in an abusive relationship. We also need to ask the why does somebody abuse and what kind services and support can we offer people experiencing domestic violence?"

Domestic Violence Survivor Reacts

The video showing Ray Rice punching his now-wife is disturbing, but it's video one domestic violence survivors says is important to see.

"It shows what actually happens and how it happens and the seriousness of it," Sitarah Clark told WBZ-TV's Katie Brace.

Clark has survived several violent relationships. She has paid attention to the statements from Rice, his wife and the NFL. She offered the following perspective.

"It will never be a fair fight regardless of what happened -what the situation was," said Clark. "When you're in a relationship with someone, especially someone with the type of money they have, you already know you're going to get judged first of all. Second of al,l whatever caused the incident she's going to feel guilty about that - maybe if I didn't say that or do this."

Clark said it's taken her awhile to get to where she is today.

"I am still a work in progress. But first and foremost I love myself. I value myself. I know that I deserve to be treated with respect. I am a respectable person. I am a loyal person. And, I deserve the same in return," said Clark.

She encourages people not to just turn their back but intervene and be supportive.

Clark wants to prevent other women from enduring the physical and emotional pain she has experienced. She has started a group called "stuck." It stands for Solutions To Uplift Community Kids. Clark wants to share her life story with younger generations, so they don't have to go through domestic violence.

WBZ-TV's Katie Brace contributed to this report.


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