KAILUA-KONA — It’s a topic kept in the shadows — but on Thursday night, domestic violence was brought into the light.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month has grown from a single Day of Unity conceived by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in October 1981. The day was set aside to connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children, according to YWCA USA.
In 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. In 1989, Congress designated by law October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another, according to the coalition. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse.
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the coalition. In a year’s time, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
The Kona Domestic Violence Awareness Walk and Vigil began with dozens of men, women and children waving signs on Alii Drive fronting St. Michael the Archangel Church. The message was loud and clear: the cycle of violence needs to stop.
“Domestic violence is the most important issue when talking about crime,” said Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth. He said statistics show kids from homes experiencing violence have a 50% greater chance of using drugs, and a 60% higher suicide rate. He also cited statistics from the Big Island Substance Abuse Council that show 99-100% of women and babies in their shelter program have domestic violence in their background.
Nationally, studies show kids from homes with violence issues have more physical and mental health issues that are costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year. “It’s about breaking the cycle and educating the community that this is not OK,” said Roth.
After the community sign waving, the group began its vigil with a poem written by an abuse survivor, and the release of monarch butterflies. The butterflies, along with the poem symbolized the victim trapped in a cocoon, but once free from abuse, having a metamorphosis into a butterfly, flying free.
Proclamations from Mayor Harry Kim and Governor David Ige were presented, remembering all those who have died as a result of domestic abuse and to help and support those who continue to suffer from abuse.
Susan Kim, the governor’s representative said emotional, psychological and mental abuse can often be more devastating than physical abuse, so it is our job to make the invisible visible. She said each year in Hawaii about 50,000 women between the ages of 18 and 64 are victims of domestic violence. It crosses all racial and socioeconomic lines. Children who experience or are victims of abuse continue the cycle, because for them, it is normal behavior.
Each year at the vigil, the Purple Ribbon Award is given to an individual who has made an impact on those who suffer from domestic abuse. This year’s recipient was First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dale Ross.
“Dale has developed a specialty for prosecuting cases involving child sexual assault and has assisted in training sexual assault nurse examiners. She is responsible for managing a continuing grant that partially funds a full time domestic violence prosecutor. She also was part of a group that obtained federal grants to support community collaboration in response to violent crime,” said domestic violence shelter manager Aurora Delaries.
Delaries also commented on the support services available to the community. “When people are ready to ask for the help, it is there.”
If you need help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit www.domesticshelters.org. In the event of an emergency, call police at 911.
To learn more about domestic violence, visit https://ncadv.org/learn-more.