One of the top executives in Charlotte, N.C., city government stood in front of new members of Congress on Wednesday to make a deeply personal plea to stop domestic violence.
Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble, whose 31-year-old daughter was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2012, told lawmakers that domestic violence knows no boundaries. It can strike anyone, he said, including a highly educated woman from a financially comfortable family.
“Her story is one that tells us that domestic violence can happen to anybody,” Kimble told the members. “It doesn’t choose its victims by race, by age, by socioeconomic status. It can choose anyone. Our daughter is proof.”
State and local law enforcement reported 108 domestic violence-related homicides in North Carolina in 2013, according to the N.C. Department of Justice. Mecklenburg County had seven deaths. Wake County had eight.
October is domestic violence awareness month, and U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, who represents parts of Charlotte, invited Kimble to Washington to speak with Democratic members of the freshman class. Adams, who also has experienced domestic violence, is co-sponsoring legislation that would require secondary schools to teach students about having safe relationships.
Sitting around a table with about a half dozen members of Congress, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Kimble shared his tragic family story. His and his wife’s only daughter, Jamie, was a great student with a bright future. She graduated in the top 10 of her class at J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, N.C. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was a rising star at her job, at a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Consolidated based in Charlotte.
But Jamie Kimble also had a long troubled relationship. She suffered years of verbal, emotional and psychological abuse, according to Ron Kimble.
Her ex-boyfriend was controlling, but never physical – at least until that last day, Kimble said.
It was September 2012 – an extremely important time for the city of Charlotte and the deputy city manager.
It was the first day of the Democratic National Conference in Charlotte. Thousands of delegates, visitors and media were beginning to fill the city. President Barack Obama was on his way.
Kimble had just worked an 18-hour day. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers knocked on his door around midnight.
The officers told Kimble and his wife that their daughter’s ex-boyfriend had driven from his home in Kansas City to Tampa, Fla., where Jamie Kimble had just arrived after a trip to Europe. He coaxed her into his car.
He shot her on the drive. Twice.
He then drove to downtown Tampa and shot himself.
“That is what the police told us at midnight on Sept. 3, 2012,” Kimble told the members of Congress. “She was a beautiful girl. She didn’t deserve the fate that befell her. But that’s the case with all domestic violence victims.”
Kimble urged the Democrats to support legislation that’s preventative and combats domestic violence on the front end. He cited the bill Adams is cosponsoring and lead by Maloney that would increase education in the schools.
Adams said her interest in the work is not only professional, but personal. She also was a victim of domestic violence when she was a graduate student in Ohio, she said.
She was around 34. She started dating a man who, at first, she didn’t realize could be so jealous. The signs were subtle at first, then the jealousy turned more serious. He became controlling. He wanted to know where she was at all times. One day he lost his temper.
“And then he attacked me, physically,” she said. “It opened my eyes real fast.”
Adams went to a prosecutor and took out an arrest warrant. She left her apartment; she even purchased a gun. She was worried about protecting her young children. She left the relationship, but not everyone does.
It’s important to be proactive, Adams said. Behaviors are formed early. Addressing them while people are young could mean the difference later on, she said.
“If we can start early, it gives us hope that by the time young people get to be adults that they’ll be thinking differently about how you solve problems,” Adams said in an interview after the discussion.
Kimble and his wife, Jan, established the Jamie Kimble Foundation for Courage to raise awareness about domestic violence and increase research and education on prevention.
Kimble spoke for about 45 minutes. Maloney asked him whether he would come speak to her constituents in New York.
It’s unclear how successful the bill will be. It already faces a significant challenge and currently has no Republican co-sponsors in a GOP-led House.
Kimble, who understands the slow pace of government, said he’s not under any misconceptions about rapid change – especially in today’s polarized Washington.
“We want to move the needle,” Kimble said. “We want to talk about the evil of domestic violence and sexual assault. If my visit only raises awareness, then it is successful.”