Steelers' cornerback Will Gay understands how domestic violence can tear a family apart, leave children scarred and have an emotional impact so deep people never fully recover.
Gay experienced that pain when he was just eight years old and his mother, Carolyn Hall, tried to escape an abusive relationship she was in with his stepfather. When she tried to leave the relationship, his stepfather shot her to death and then shot himself.
The experience impacted Gay then, and still does. The pain will never go away, but what he is doing now is helping others who are victims of domestic violence, in particular intimate partner violence.
"I am just glad we are talking about it from the top of the league to the bottom," said Gay of the increased awareness of it in the NFL. "We are all aware, all trying to do something about domestic violence. We are working to get it where awareness is everywhere."
It's not just awareness, but also wanting to help victims that had Gay team with the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh to introduce their new national danger assessment app, RUSafe, for which he is the national spokesman. The app, designed by Newton Consulting, helps individuals to identify if they are a victim of domestic violence, and connects victims to a local hotline. The app is already available to be used in the Pittsburgh market, and is having a fast impact, and beginning on Nov. 1 it will be available nationwide via smartphone app stores.
"My mother probably didn't have any information about a hotline or a way to get help," said Gay, who took part in a press conference at the Steelers' practice facility on Friday along with those from the Women's Shelter to introduce it. "With this app, I thought it's amazing because everyone uses smartphones now. If you are scared to talk to someone in your family, you can use the app and be connected to safety. There are people out there willing to help and try to save a life."
Gay had no idea that he would be joined at the press conference by his teammates, and was touched when he saw the entire defensive backfield and Coach Mike Tomlin there, all supporting a cause that is close to him and has come to the forefront in recent months.
"With all of the incidents in the NFL right now, it's good to have my teammates here," said Gay. "When people ask me what would you do if a teammate told you about it or you heard it in the locker room? We have this discussion in the locker room, if you are in a situation what would you do. We are honest with each other. I'll correct people if it's the wrong way. It's just information that needs to be taught. We can't walk around and say it's none of our business or that man is grown.
"For them to be here and support me lets me know they hear my story, but they are willing to make a change as well."
Gay, who first talked about his experience with domestic violence several years ago, said keeping the conversation alive now is healthy for him, and hopefully helpful for others.
"It was therapy for me, that's why I started talking about it," said Gay. "By me talking about it, it helped me grow as a man. I am talking about it because my mom went through it. She was the one who lost her life. Anything to keep her voice alive I am willing to do."