Tana Greene was in 9th grade when she fell for one of the most popular boys at her Virginia high school. Within a year, she was pregnant, then married soon after. Six months later, the abuse began.
It was both mental and physical. He unplugged the phones and took them to work so she wouldnt call anyone. He beat her, then cried and promised not to do it any more, then beat her again. You dont want to tell anyone, she says now, 35 years later. You think, If I just looked better, if I just cleaned better...
Greene is one of five women from the Charlotte area appearing on a stark and disturbing video that will be the centerpiece of North Carolinas first ever statewide domestic violence campaign, called eNOugh Violence. The campaign will include a mix of media and social media, a web site and community outreach. Its debut will focus on Mecklenburg County, home to some of the states worst domestic violence statistics.
Last year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police responded to about 36,000 calls related to domestic violence, Police Chief Rodney Monroe said last week. United Family Services, which operates Charlottes only 24-hour domestic violence hotline, took 9,000 calls in 2011. Statewide, North Carolina ranks fourth in the nation in homicides against women.
The goal of eNOugh Violence is simple but critical: heightened awareness. That means informed citizens and proactive bystanders who report violence instead of looking the other way. It means connecting agencies and referral sources, and developing a community dialogue that includes businesses, which lose an estimated $5 billion nationally from absenteeism and other costs related to family violence.
The campaign will launch in 2013, and last week supporters held a kickoff event to begin raising $1 million to seed the effort. The lights were dimmed and the video began, and five Charlotte women told stories of kicking and stomping, of isolation and fear they would be killed. Tana Greene described how her husband stopped their car one day, took out the baby carrier, beat her up, then drove off. She paused in the telling to put her hand to her mouth and blink back tears.
I still cry now when I talk about it, she told the editorial board later, but she does talk not only in the video but to high school girls around Charlotte. Earlier this month, she sat with three of the other survivors in the video to see how it turned out. Youre proud and youre excited, she said, but also: The fear creeps back in when you see it and hear it.
We can honor their courage by supporting the eNOugh Violence campaign and, at the least, by listening and learning from it. Supporters can also urge Congress to reauthorize the federal Violence Against Women Act, which has helped fund agencies like United Family Services since 1994 but is now being threatened by Republicans who dont like new protections for homosexuals and temporary visas for battered illegal immigrants.
Women caught in abuse dont deserve the tangle of partisan politics. They deserve our attention, our support and, like Tana Greene, a path from victim to violence survivor.