The attention given to the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal has prompted more victims to seek services, overloading a system that turns down 170,000 requests for shelter each year, says the Cincinnati Enquirer. When a video of the former Baltimore Ravens' running back knocking his then fiancee and now wife unconscious was leaked to media last month, it created a firestorm of people sharing stories of abuse on Twitter with the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. “It's created a huge public dialogue the likes I've never seen in 40 years,” said Kim Gandy of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “So many people are not just revealing that they've been victims, but their friends and family are revealing it. That's just been tremendous because that will make a tremendous difference.”
The sharing appears to have given people in abusive relationships the courage to reach out. Calls to the national hotline increased 85 percent in September from the previous month. The response is highlighting a problem Gandy and other domestic violence advocates have known about for years: Funding losses and stagnant federal appropriations have left many shelters, especially rural ones, unable to meet the need. While shelters across the nation provided 7.7 million shelter nights for domestic violence victims and their families in 2012, there were about 174,450 unmet requests for shelter, according to the Federal Family and Youth Services Bureau.