When UNC professor Rebecca Macy was a social worker, she never knew if her clients would survive until her next meeting with them.
These clients were victims of interpersonal and sexual violence, and Macy said she often had the feeling that she she couldn’t help them.
But she said the worry she had for the women and their children’s safety motivated her to pursue solving the issue.
“That was a really profound experience for me,” Macy said. “I was in my early 20s and working with these women — I wasn’t sure how to help or how to make a difference in their lives.”
Macy is now a professor in the UNC School of Social Work and conducts research on domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.
Macy said many prevention practices for these issues are not evidence-based, so she gathers data to gauge whether or not programs are effective.
Macy said she has worked with many organizations and communities during her career, and in April 2013, she began to work with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office as a part of a national initiative to prevent domestic violence homicides.
“(Macy) brings a wealth of experience to this project that is instrumental to our success,” said Melissia Larson, grants administrator for the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office.
Pitt County, which is in eastern North Carolina, was one of 12 counties chosen nationwide for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative.
The first phase of the program will end in September 2014, and after that up to six of the sites will be eligible to continue to the second phase.
Detective John Guard of the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office said from 2008 to 2011, 54 percent of homicides in Pitt County and 22 percent in the state were a result of domestic violence.
Pitt County received $200,000 for phase one of the initiative. Larson said the first phase involves researching which prevention plans would be best for Pitt County if it is chosen for phase two.
“What Professor Macy has been most instrumental in is figuring out how we are able to track this information — what is the source and how do we get it?” Larson said.
If selected for phase two, Pitt County will receive an additional $600,000 to implement the program over three years — an opportunity Guard said could benefit the entire state.
“There are always hopes that if this is successful it will be replicated in other communities across North Carolina,” Guard said.
Macy said an important part of what she does is to make sure the women, and sometimes men, involved in these programs remain safe during data collection and that their lives are not negatively affected by the research.
Macy said she has spent a lot of time working in the community of Pitt County.
She said the research they have done so far will help agencies and organizations in the county prevent domestic violence homicides, with or without the additional grant money.
“Even if we don’t get selected, I think something really amazing will come out of it.”
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