Focus Carolina

Focus on: Rebecca Macy

Rebecca Macy who is passionate about ending family violence and human trafficking through her research in the School of Social Work.

Macy talks with her hands
Rebecca Macy talks during an interview in the Tate Turner Kuralt Building at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rebecca Macy, a professor in the School of Social Work, is passionate about ending family violence and human trafficking through her research. She works with organizations to bring economic empowerment and other much-needed services to victims and their families, allowing them to create independent lives for themselves. Macy is also the L. Richardson Preyer Distinguished Chair for Strengthening Families.

Although Macy has done research around the world, her current work is close to home. She was one of several people on the front lines of dealing with domestic violence who assessed the needs of Orange County for a domestic violence shelter. She led a team with more than 200 people who participated in research interviews or focus groups or submitted their ideas about critical needs. Research shows many areas where traditional shelters do not work well, so the group was willing to look at more nimble and flexible alternatives.

We haven’t had a domestic violence shelter in Orange County for over 20 years. We’ve struggled as a community because of that. One out of four women experience domestic violence, and our numbers here in North Carolina are even higher than that. It has a lot of devastating consequences for women and their families. 

Macy and her team have learned that a flexible, multipronged approach that focuses on more than just a shelter or crisis housing can be adapted not only to Orange County, but also in other communities.

Helping women with small amounts of money sometimes can make a big difference and is a lot less expensive than shelter. It’s more empowering. Solutions like rapid re-housing can really make a difference. Most communities may benefit from a shelter, but they need those other approaches. 

Macy also works as a program evaluator with Restore New York City, an organization dedicated to helping foreign nationals brought to the United States under false pretenses. Restore identifies sex trafficking victims, provides services to them, measures effectiveness and trains others. With North Carolina’s growing problem of human trafficking, Macy is looking at Restore’s emphasis on housing, health and a job-readiness programs in helping women to secure an economic future.

Women are getting into those jobs, sticking with them and earning good living-wage employment income. We’ll use rigorous research to look at whether or not that program might work in a scientifically sound way, and if that’s something we can replicate in other communities. 

Every day, Carolina faculty members engage in groundbreaking research, innovative teaching and public service that impacts in our community and the state, nation and the world.

Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear their stories and find out what ignites their passion for their work. You can listen to WCHL at 97.9 FM or 1360 AM. The interviews will also be available anytime online at gazette.unc.edu under the Focus Carolina tab.

Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on WCHL, sponsored by the University.

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