LIHUE — No one is untouched by the violent acts of domestic violence and sexual assault.
If it’s not happening in your home, chances are that you know someone, whether it be a friend, family member or neighbor, whose life has been impacted by domestic violence, according to YWCA’s Executive Shelter Director, Renae Hamilton.
“One person, it hurts us all,” Hamilton said.
The YWCA hosted its annual Candlelight Vigil at St. Michael and All Angel’s Church Wednesday evening, honoring survivors and those who have died from domestic violence and sexual assault as a part of the center’s Week Without Violence campaign.
Along with the nursing department from Kauai Community College, around 25 volunteers helped coordinate the event this year with the YWCA.
“It’s fantastic to get so many people from the community here,” Hamilton said. “We seem to grow and grow every year, and I think that’s a really good sign that the community is very involved and very committed into joining efforts against this type of violence.”
For Natalie Isaac, YWCA Shelter Director, it was her first time attending the event that has been happening for over 20 years since taking the position at the YWCA earlier this year, and it was an event that really struck a chord with her.
“The outpouring of help has been tremendous,” Isaac said. “My understanding, as this event came closer and closer, was that this is an important event to the island; it’s not just a YWCA event. A lot of people who have been here for many, many years have shown up tonight.”
The theme for this year’s vigil was inspired by the song “Rise Up” by singer Andra Day. An event that sparked emotional responses for those in attendance, this year’s Candlelight Vigil offered hope; a light at the end of the tunnel.
“There’s hope and a sense of renewal,” Hamilton said. “There’s commitment to ending domestic violence and sexual assault on our island. It’s not easy to do because you hear about the difficulties around these violent acts, but I think that just shows Hawaii’s passion and love and care for each other, in terms of being one big ohana. We all have to help each other out.”
Each year in the state of Hawaii, 50,000 women between the ages of 18 to 64 are victims of domestic violence. Furthermore, one in seven women have been raped in Hawaii, according to the YWCA and Hawaii Says No More’s website.
“By the end of tonight, people will have a whole different understanding of how all walks of life are affected by domestic violence,” Isaac said. “And still today it happens, which is one of the most surprising things for a lot of people. (This event) has an element of honor and dignity to it. We certainly feel humbled by it. I guess this is what domestic violence week all floats around.”
Placing help pamphlets down on the YWCA’s table was Roy Asher, assistant chief for the Kauai Police Department, in-charge of patrol services.
Asher, who has attended this event every year for the past 20 years, see’s this community gathering as an opportunity for people to come out and find help. He said he wants those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault to know that the Kauai Police Department is a part of the solution.
“It’s important for (KPD) to be here at these type of events because we’re a part of the solution for these problems,” Asher said. “I try to be here because with this type of job, it kind of brings closure for all of us as well. A lot of times I come across victims that I personally had to deal with as a patrol officer and through the years as a detective. I like to come; I like being here to see people get that closure.”
Obtaining closure is no simple task. It’s a gut-wrenching experience for those who speak out, according to Isaac. But when there is a support group in place for those who feel like there is no where else to turn, that can make all the difference.
“It’s so easy to forget the human part of someone’s story and how long it takes for people to rebuild their life,” Hamilton said. “Showing people some of the challenges people take and walking in their slippers for a change, I think helps all of us to have the capacity for compassion and patience.”
Resources are available for those who need them. Along with the YWCA’s shelter, which has been refurbished and redecorated by the Zonta Club of Hanalei, there are counselors and people willing to help. And as Asher said, the police are there to stop these harmful acts from happening.
“Prevention is big. We’re training our officers to be compassionate, sympathetic and open-minded,” Asher said. “Training and collaborating with other agencies are important, too. We want to show that we can be an avenue of help.”
For more information about this event or the YWCA’s efforts to raise awareness, call 245-8404. For assistance dealing with domestic violence or sexual assault, call the YWCA’s 24/7 Crisis Line at 245-6362.
A previous version of this article stated the YWCA’s shelter was refurbished and redecorated by the Zonta Club of Kauai.