William Gay understands. He knows the pain is real. He knows often it's a silent pain, one many are afraid to talk about, while for others, they never have the opportunity.
What Gay also understands, is all of that has to change. And he will do anything he can to make it happen.
Gay is one of the NFL's biggest advocates against domestic violence, because for him, it's personal. He lost his mother, Carolyn Hall, to the horror that is domestic violence, and he doesn't want others to have that same pain.
He is taking the next step towards that after being named to the Biden Foundation Advisory Council focused on ending domestic violence and sexual assault against women. Gay will join former Vice President Joe Biden and other prominent leaders on Feb. 9 at the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values Central 2018 in Indianapolis.
"It was big just reading the letter asking me to do this," said Gay. "I read the name and saw it was from Joe Biden, the Vice President, and thought you are sending this to the wrong person. I got the letter during the playoffs and couldn't focus on it, but after the season I told the NFL I was interested in being a part of it."
At the Leadership and Values seminar the group will discuss a commitment to empowering men and women to stop campus sexual assault to over 3,000 fraternity and sorority leaders from close to 250 college campuses.
"This is big," said Gay. "I have never talked to college students like this. This is important because this is when kids are transitioning into adulthood. If you want to eliminate the problem, Joe Biden believes this is where the source is. It makes sense. This is when you are leading into adulthood."
In 2014 Vice President Biden launched the It's On Us campaign, focused on ending sexual assault on college campuses, where it is more common than many realize, or want to acknowledge.
"It's not just one person, it's everybody putting their hand in the pile," said Gay. "In football we all have our hand in the pile to make the Steelers organization work. You take that whole aspect to make one common goal work, and make it work towards something that is devastating in our world and together we will make it work."
Gay's story is one we have all become familiar with, but it's one that needs to remain in the spotlight. Gay's life was turned upside down at an age when life is supposed to be about playing sports and video games and eating junk food. In short, being a kid. He was 8 years old, and he was living in a rather traditional American home, with his mother, Carolyn Hall, his stepfather Vernon Bryant, and stepbrothers Unrikay Hall, 17, and Verterris Bryant, 4. Through William Gay's 8-year-old eyes, everything was normal.
What he didn't know was that things were far from perfect at home. His mother and stepfather were having problems, and they were problems serious enough to have Carolyn interested in pursuing some type of separation.
One day, Carolyn dropped off Unrikay, William and Verterris at her mother's home. While Corine Hall was watching the boys for her daughter, Carolyn then went to visit a friend. William ran off to play, watch television and just hang out.
In the meantime, Vernon Bryant had been following Carolyn, and when she arrived at her friend's house, husband and wife got into an argument, one that escalated to the degree that Vernon pulled a gun and shot Carolyn Hall three times. With that, 8-year-old William Gay was left without a mother, and when Vernon Bryant subsequently took his own life to complete this tragic murder-suicide, he was left without much of anything.
"I think my mom would be proud I am doing this," said Gay. "I am proud that her story is living on because I get to keep telling it. I will be able to share that with 3,000 students. This is why I wanted to do it, to keep her name alive and help someone in her situation.
"I am going to try and relate to the students. You can share with them numbers and statistics, but nobody wants to hear all of that. I want to give them real life examples, even from the days I was in college. They need to know not to be ashamed by anything, it's okay to talk about it. It's normal now. If you see something, say something. Don't turn away."