By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Chahnaz Kebaier, a researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill who died after being shot multiple times in the head and body while picking up her children at their elementary school on May 25, had been involved in an ongoing domestic dispute with her estranged husband, who has been charged with her murder.
Kebaier’s death was the 24th homicide attributed to domestic violence this year in North Carolina, which ranks 4th in the U.S. in homicides by men against women.
To raise awareness about domestic violence and about resources available to victims and perpetrators, a task force representing half-a-dozen organizations aims to raise $1 million in private funds to support a media campaign that will be piloted in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties in 2013.
The task force then would seek funding from state lawmakers in 2014 to help support a statewide campaign that also would be funded with private contributions.
“The incidence of domestic violence is often a hidden problem,” says Beth Briggs, executive director of the North Carolina Council for Women, a state agency that is a lead partner in the task force. “Families are fearful about speaking about it. And we want to provide an opportunity to create awareness and information to protect women and families across the state.”
Domestic violence, including sexual abuse, cuts across categories of race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status and age, says Jill Dinwiddie, a Charlotte resident who is co-chairing the fundraising effort to support the campaign and retired last November as executive director of the Council for Women.
But people tend to be reluctant to talk about domestic violence or to seek help for themselves or get involved to help victims, she says.
“We’re trying to raise awareness everywhere, among employees and educators, and with victims,” she says. “We want victims to know there are resources they can go to for help and support. We want perpetrators to become better educated about appropriate behaviors. And we want the community at large to assume responsibility for helping people that show symptoms of abuse.”
A woman is abused in the U.S every nine seconds, and domestic violence represent the number-one reason women and children become homeless in the U.S.
And intimate-partner violence is estimated to cost employers over $5 billion a year, with one study finding 54 percent of employees living with domestic violence missed at least three full days of work a month.
“Frequently, the workplace may be the last holdout for a woman who’s being abused, who puts makeup on bruises and doesn’t want anybody to know she’s in an abusive relationship,” says Dinwiddie, who co-chairs the fundraising effort.
Jenny Ward, board chair for the Council for Women and sustainability engagement manager at Duke Energy, says the public-awareness campaign will focus on the impact of domestic violence on victims, families, communities, businesses and the economy.
An eight-minute video, funded by Wells Fargo and created by Charlotte communications firm Wray Ward, tells the stories of survivors of domestic violence, while a website at enoughviolence.com, created on a pro-bono basis by VisionPoint Marketing in Raleigh, features information on domestic violence and resources for dealing with it.
“We want to raise the community consciousness, and connect with victims earlier so they don’t wait and wait and wait,” says Ward, who also co-chairs the fundraising effort.
The overall campaign, designed by communications firm Wray Ward on a pro-bono basis, will feature television, radio, outdoor, print and social media, as well as community outreach and education.
It also will include training materials developed for human-resources professionals to help them identify signs that an employee may be in trouble, and to raise awareness in their organizations about the issue.
“We want to really make a difference,” Ward says.