Even people who knew me did not know the details of my marriage. You see, society encourages us to keep some secrets hidden. But in an attempt to conquer the shame that had been plaguing me for the three years since my divorce, I chose to reveal my darkest one online. I drove to my former home and snapped a picture of a Post-It note reading: “I stayed with my abusive husband.” Then I sat in my car in the light drizzle of the evening and composed an Instagram post which, a mere eight months later, would spark a hashtag — #AndSoIStayed — and a national controversy.

As the smoke clears on the initial news of my ex-husband Rob Porter’s White House dismissal, a deeper story is developing. People responded intensely to my words because this is a story that occurs all too often behind closed doors. Locked in closets and bathrooms. Trapped in cars. Isolated at school or at church or at work. Hiding under the bed. Indeed, cowering in kitchens and living rooms all across America are the unspoken stories of abuse. And speaking out about my own story has showed me just how desperate people are for a way to express what they themselves are going through.

For days, pleas have poured into my DMs on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thousands are seeking answers about how to leave, how to overcome shame, or how to start over. Hundreds of comments flooded my blog post from those who are still suffering and scared.