There has been a lot of talk in the days that have followed Chahnaz Kebaeir’s killing –some have said, “we can’t believe this happened here,” and some have said, “this can happen anywhere.” For me, though, both of those statements are inadequate.
Neither speak directly to the women in our neighborhoods for whom domestic violence is or has been a reality, and neither tell the truth about a culture that promotes violence against women.
The CDC tell us that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Based on these numbers, we can assume that there are mothers who drop their children off at our schools each day who are living with partners who abuse them.
Abuse may be verbal or physical, it may be control of finances, threats regarding immigration status, isolation from family and friends, or sexual coercion or assault.
Saying this can or can’t happen here doesn’t acknowledge its pervasive nature and doesn’t bring women experiencing it into our conversation.
Instead, we must say–“we know you’re here.” “You are not invisible to us.” and “We stand with you.”
This is a direct appeal to you who are experiencing violence or abuse at the hands of a partner. You live here in Chapel Hill and you are entitled to feel safe. Your voice is the most important one in our response to domestic violence.
There are agencies that will listen to you without requiring you to take any action that might make you uncomfortable. You can access them through hotline numbers that WCHL will provide on their website.
And with regard to the truth about our culture: We must hold each other accountable for language and actions that demean women and contribute to a culture of violence against women. We must acknowledge that domestic violence may happen most frequently in the privacy of a home, but its roots are in a public sphere in which women are dehumanized and devalued. We must raise our children with a clear message of gender equality.
Let us stand up for each other in small ways–by acknowledging that we live amidst and among women who deserve to be seen and heard–and in large ways–by saying everywhere and in every possible way that we will stand up for women.