‘Start by Believing’

LIHUE — Listen without judgment.

That was the consensus at the YWCA Wednesday when more than 100 people planted pinwheels in front of the building to raise awareness of sexual assault, child abuse and underage drinking.

It was also where the Kauai Police Department, in collaboration with the YWCA and the Children’s Justice Center, launched “Start by Believing” — a national campaign by End Violence Against Women International — to get people talking about how to react when victims of sexual violence come forward.

“We need to correct our thinking as a whole,” said Renae Hamilton, YWCA director. “It will go a long way in letting victims know they are supported.”

Police Chief Darryl Perry said, “sexual assault and domestic violence in the home place are issues that we all collectively have to address as a community.”

“Our community is built on the foundation of ohana and when that foundation starts to crumble, we have to take measures to bring it back together,” Perry said

Hamilton said victims of violence often are blamed or judged and the campaign is making strides for women afraid or intimidated to report the abuse.

“Whoever is the first responder — whether it’s a police officer, auntie, we need to check victim blaming that can naturally pop up due to misconceptions in our culture,” she said. “Then the path to holding the offenders accountable is easier. The more we can grow the community involvement and empowering them for prevention the more we can be successful.”

In 2015, there were 717 domestic arguments reported to KPD, according to statistics from KPD. There were 401 family abuse cases and 96 cases of those were felony family abuse cases. Of those 401 cases, 304 arrests were made for family abuse. Victims ranged from two weeks old to 87 years old.

Those were the cases that were reported, Perry said. One in five cases of domestic abuse don’t get reported, he said.

Perry said that 116 sexual assault cases were also reported against victims ranging from 18 months old to 60 years old in 2015.

KPD’s Forensic Nurse Jennifer Antony, working as a sexual assault nurse examiner, introduced the campaign to the officers a few years ago, but when EVAWI announced that Start by Believing would have a global day on April 6 to tie into sexual assault awareness month, she decided to get the officers more involved.

She had each of them sign a placard that read, “My name is __ and when someone tells me they were raped or sexually assaulted, I start by believing.”

“It’s really the first step in having some power back in their lives and having that control given back to them, which then starts their healing process,” Antony said. “Mentally and physically.”

Jessell Pascua, director of the Children’s Justice Center, said sexual abuse affects one in 10 children.

Perry stressed that bringing awareness to these three issues was important because sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence and alcohol abuse typically go unreported and the victims need help.

Others agreed.

“Silence doesn’t solve anything,” said Navy Cmdr. Pete Donaher, who is stationed at PMRF. “You have to talk about it and provide people with the ability and the solution instead of living in silence.”

“Addressing all three at once helps solve the issue at its root,” said Navy Cmdr. Hillary Darby. “When you take the approach that it’s not my problem or it’s not my business, because it’s not my family, what you fail to realize is that we are an interconnected ohana. And what hurts her, even though she’s technically not in my immediate family, she’s part of the collective family.”

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Michelle Iracheta, cops and courts reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or miracheta@thegardenisland.com.

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