According to Maui Domestic Violence Task Force Coordinator Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez, Maui County has seen a 37 percent increase in the number of initial reported incidents of abuse of a family or household member from 2009 to 2010.
Some 1,200 to 1,500 women are murdered by a current or former partner every year in the United States - an average of nearly three murders a day.
This year, there have been two tragic deaths in Hawaii associated with domestic violence, including one in our county.
Maui County is bringing this major societal problem to the forefront in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
This year's theme is, "Who Can? You Can! Stop Domestic Violence." The message is meant to empower the Maui community to help shift attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate abuse, and emphasize that preventing domestic violence is everybody's business.
To help inform the community, several special events are slated during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
On Oct. 13, Stacey Moniz, executive director of Women Helping Women, will appear on the "Maui Breakfast Club" on KNUI AM 900 from 8 to 9 a.m. She will discuss domestic violence issues in Maui County, support services available through Women Helping Women for victims of domestic violence, and "If You Love Me," a play about the impact of domestic violence, playing at the Historic Iao Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 and 15, 3 p.m. on Oct. 16 and 10:30 a.m. Oct. 17. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door; call 242-6600.
On Saturday, Oct. 15, the East Maui Domestic Violence Task Force March for Family Peace will be part of the Hana Aloha Week Parade.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, Lucy Feinberg, regional director of PACT (Parents and Children Together), will discuss domestic violence issues in Maui County and support services available through PACT for victims of domestic violence on the "Maui Breakfast Club" from 8 to 9 a.m.
Also slated for Oct. 18 is the "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" march and rally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the University of Hawaii Maui College's Great Lawn.
"You can't really understand another person's experience until you've walked a mile in their shoes," said event Coordinator Aris Banaag.
"'Walk a Mile in Her Shoes' asks men to be the leaders in the fight towards preventing violence against women. We are asking men to walk a 'mile' (in this case, around the Great Lawn) in women's high-heeled shoes," she continued.
"It is our hope that this event will open up communication about sexual violence and to help men better understand and appreciate women's experiences. It also highlights the fact that sexual violence does not just affect women but also the men, family and friends who care about them."
The UHMC campus will be open to the Maui community with food, music and informational services from local agencies. To register, call 984-3278 or visit uhmauicollegewalkamile.eventbrite.com/.
On Friday, Oct. 21, a Domestic Violence Awareness Month Candlelight Vigil will honor those whose lives were lost in domestic violence and celebrate those who have survived and thrived. The vigil begins at Women Helping Women's ReVive Resale Boutique at Kahului Shopping Center in collaboration with the Maui Domestic Violence Task Force and Peace Peeps. For more information, call 242-6600.
The events will conclude on Monday, Oct. 24, when Mayor Alan Arakawa issues a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Maui County. The public is invited to the 8:30 a.m. ceremony in the Mayor's Conference Room on the ninth floor of the Kalana O Maui Building.
Domestic violence is a complex, widespread problem. Victims and batterers come from all ethnic, religious, educational and social backgrounds.
Credit the Maui community for discussing domestic violence openly and addressing it head-on.