UH seal in System gold

This editorial by UH President David Lassner ran in The Star Advertiser on February 14, 2021.

In the not-so-distant past, domestic violence or intimate partner violence was not openly discussed in the community or workplace. That a loved one would harm their intimate partner in a coercive, deliberate and violent manner was a difficult truth that many would prefer to minimize or deny. Spousal and intimate “disputes” were considered private matters, and even trained professionals experienced many challenges in developing safe interventions for victims who were trapped by abusive partners.

We now understand the prevalence of domestic violence globally and, sadly, here in Hawaiʻi. We now know that while domestic violence can affect anyone, there are certain populations that are even more vulnerable including indigenous populations, gender minorities, and the disabled—particularly when these identities intersect.

Because its pervasiveness is often hidden from sight, domestic violence is considered by many experts to be a silent global pandemic. And incidents are markedly on the rise in this global COVID-19 pandemic, driven by loss of employment, economic insecurity and the lockdown of homes and families to protect our health.

In Hawaiʻi, the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) has been at the forefront of work to help and protect victims and reduce prevalence of domestic violence in our communities. Throughout their three decades of systemic advocacy and providing direct services to survivors and their families, DVAC has consistently maintained that the pervasive, yet shadowy nature of domestic requires the commitment of leaders from all sectors and across systems to recognize their roles in addressing this public health crisis and to commit to improving institutional responses and supporting creative and collaborative prevention strategies.

To that end, I am honored to serve on DVAC’s Council of Advisors. I am keenly aware that the effort to keep domestic violence survivors safe during these unprecedented times requires thoughtful discussions about how to improve partnerships and enhance collaborations. Six years ago, the University of Hawaiʻi began developing a comprehensive plan to strengthen our own systemwide infrastructure – one that would support student and employee survivors of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence.

We expanded our participation in the community and increased our visible commitment to ending intimate partner violence through collaborative and community-based initiatives such as the Men’s March Against Violence. In 2015, we revised our policies and procedures to prohibit dating/domestic violence and stalking. That same year, we increased access to confidential resources available to members of our campus communities. We formalized relationships and partnerships statewide with DVAC, the Hawaiʻi State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Child and Family Service, and the YWCA Kauai. We continue to work with these agencies to provide survivor-centered support services as we provide collaborative training programs for our students and employees. And we now regularly administer campus climate surveys so we can understand the breadth and depth of domestic violence within our community.

We are proud to work with DVAC and look forward to working with them and other allies to develop more innovative ways to build a stronger safety net for survivors and reduce incidence levels. If there is any promise to defeat this silent pandemic, we must be guided by the expertise and institutional experiences of those who are working on the front lines, such as DVAC.

As DVAC celebrates their 30th anniversary this year, we pay tribute to an incredible legacy of visionary advocacy work to increase survivor safety while ensuring abuser accountability. Congratulations and many thanks to DVAC for three decades of service and leadership to end intimate partner violence. We are honored to be part of your shared journey.

Additional information for the UH community

Text Feature for Domestic Violence Action Center’s Helpline (state-wide)

Due to COVID-19, Domestic Violence Action Center’s Helpline has established a new number to respond to text messages from survivors. Helpline can provide support, risk assessment, safety planning, resources and referrals to Domestic Violence Action Center’s advocacy and legal services to survivors who may be unable to talk on the phone while in quarantine.

  • If you’re unable to speak safely, you can text (605) 956-5680, to chat with a helpline specialist Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • If you’d prefer to speak to someone over the phone you can call helpline at (808) 531-3371 or toll free at (800) 690-6200 to speak to someone during these hours.
  • If your partner does come home or walk in while you are talking to Helpline, text “STOP” and delete the text conversation so it cannot be discovered.
  • On Helpline, a callers safety is priority, so all phone calls and chats are completely confidential.