It was a day William Gay was looking forward to, a day when he was right where he wanted to be…at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.
It’s a place he has visited numerous times, giving his time, energy and love to those who seek shelter there, those who seek a safe haven from the horror that is domestic violence.
Gay knows their plight well.
Gay experienced the horrific pain of domestic violence 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.
It shattered Gay’s life, something that took years for him to even talk about. But he knows silence is not the way to go. He knew he had to become a voice for those who are impacted by domestic violence.
While he was playing for the Steelers Gay did everything in his power to help those at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, from hosting dinners to just visiting with those who stay there. He even got involved with the fundraising efforts to improve the facility. But he never got to see the upgrades, the improvements for those staying there because he ended up leaving the Steelers via free agency before the work was completed.
“I was a part of the fundraiser and I never got to see the building,” said Gay. “I was excited to see how the building looks and all the amenities they have there for those staying there.”
Seeing the building might have been what had him there, but the visit was much more. He was there to see those who seek shelter.
“Just going there and being around the ladies and the kids, it was therapeutic for me,” said Gay, an offensive coaching intern with the Steelers. “Seeing that group have the same goals and aspirations I do, to make domestic violence to cease and to help any family that’s in need, it just brings a smile to my face. I just wanted to come back over and let them know I am back in town and here for them.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to get word out about an issue that society sometimes turns a blind eye to. And Gay’s dream is that will never be the case again.
“We have breast cancer awareness in October too, but we want let everyone know that October is about domestic violence awareness too,” said Gay. “I just want to go as hard as everyone is going with breast cancer and let the world know we are here to stand up for it and stand up against it.
“I always talk about no silence. People look the other way. Society used to tell us that is none of your business. If we can break the barrier and become comfortable being uncomfortable and talking about those things and pointing them out, it would be a better world.
“We need to focus on how we can all work together to prevent this.”