The intensity of violence in Kaua’i domestic-violence cases has increased in part due to perpetrators’ use of crystal methamphatamine, or ice, said Nancy Peterson, program director for the YWCA family violence shelter.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the candlelight vigil this Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at St. Michael & All Angels’ Episcopal Church at Hardy and ‘Umi streets in Lihu’e will be Peterson’s last as program director.
The vigil is to recognize those in the community affected by the problem of violence against women and children.
Peterson is leaving after 18 years of service at the shelter, and said there have been some positive changes about how members of the public perceive domestic violence, and how prosecutors go after perpetrators.
In those 18 years, too, numbers of annual cases have gone up dramatically, she said.
“Service response in the community has improved tremendously over the years. When I first began this work 18 years ago, if you were arrested for domestic violence, your bail would have been $50, which was easily obtained,” she explained.
“Domestic violence was looked upon as a personal family problem, whereas now it is correctly identified as a community issue that affects us all.”
She went on to say that “the laws have changed so that domestic violence is considered a crime against the state rather than against an individual. This means that the state is pressing the charges.
“This is carried out by the prosecuting attorney’s office through a no-drop policy,” she said.
Moreover, “all of the people involved in the system around victim services, including law enforcement and prosecution, have received training in this area, to address issues such as stalking,” Peterson said.
“These issues weren’t even considered when I first began working in this field. In the past, we might have prepared two or three restraining orders per week, and now we are preparing eight to 10 restraining orders per week,” she said.
“This does not necessarily indicate an increase in domestic violence, but, rather, it reflects an increased awareness and education by the community at large,” Peterson commented.
The issue of effects of domestic violence on children is still a priority of those at the YWCA, she continued.
“There has been a lot of research over the years in this area, showing the effects on children, and everyone is more cognizant of how children are adversely impacted by witnessing family violence,” she said.
“Here at the YWCA, we work hard to educate both the victims and the perpetrators about how their children are being affected when they grow up in a home where violence has occurred.”
A sobering statistic is that 50 percent of the men who frequently assault or assaulted their wives also frequently abuse or abused their children, she said.
Some other national statistics are that violence against women is the number-one cause of injury to women, and that every 15 seconds a woman is battered in the United States by her husband, boyfriend, or live-in partner.
Some 75 percent of victims of domestic-violence murders are killed after leaving relationships, and half of all homeless women and their children are fleeing domestic violence.
One out of four girls in America will be sexually assaulted before her 18th birthday, and one in six boys will be sexually exploited before his 18th birthday.
On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in America every day.