Abuse reports up in Maui County

With a continuing rise in abuse cases reported to police last year, Maui’s only domestic violence shelter has been packed, and advocates are helping more people seek restraining orders in domestic conflicts.

“We definitely are seeing the increase and the pressure that puts on all of our programs,” said Stacey Moniz, executive director of Women Helping Women, which operates the shelter, a domestic violence hot line and resale boutique. “The good news is that our community is really responsive. People are calling the police if they see domestic violence, and women are coming for help.”

With both Mayor Alan Arakawa and the Maui County Council recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, community events – including a candelight vigil Wednesday on the lawn of the county building – are underway.

In the wake of a 7.3 percent increase last year in reported incidents of abuse in Maui County, some agencies have added services and programs, including ones in outlying areas.

In mid-June, Parents and Children Together started a therapy program for domestic violence survivors and their children on Lanai, where 101 abuse incidents were reported to police last year, up 33 percent from 76 incidents in 2011.

“Like every community, it’s also threatened by domestic violence,” said Lucy Feinberg, Maui regional director of PACT. “It’s had more than its share.”

The agency has a contract with the Lanai Arts Center and a psychologist to provide trauma therapy using art and clay in a unique program, she said.

PACT also offers batterers’ intervention programs on Lanai, as well as on Maui.

Since July, through a subcontract with Ohana Makamae, batterers’ intervention programs have been offered in Hana so East Maui residents don’t have to drive to Central Maui for the services.

“We want it to be as convenient as possible,” Feinberg said. “We want them to succeed. We want them to experience a change in their beliefs and what we believe is a happier life.”

Also since July, Child & Family Service in Wailuku has been providing individual counseling and therapy to survivors of domestic violence and their children through a new state contract, said Nicole Hokoana, director of Maui County programs for Child & Family Service.

“Our nation is recognizing intimate partner violence is a serious problem,” she said. “We need to address it for our children’s sake.”

The agency offers support groups by age, as well as co-therapy for survivors and children. “It’s really important to strengthen survivors and children,” Hokoana said.

Last year, the number of abuse incidents reported to police in Maui County increased by 7.3 percent to 4,753, compared with 4,430 in 2011. The abuse reports last year included 53 incidents of felony abuse by strangulation and 1,320 incidents of physical abuse. The reports led to 558 arrests of adults last year, up from 539 in 2011.

Police also investigated 284 reported violations of a court order for protection and violations of temporary restraining orders last year, resulting in 212 arrests.

The average age of those arrested for abuse last year was 35, with the youngest person a 14-year-old girl and the oldest a 73-year-old man. For victims, the average age was 37, with the youngest a 1-year-old and oldest 98.

The largest number of abuse incidents were reported in Wailuku with 974, followed by Upcountry with 929, Kihei with 780, Lahaina with 726, Kahului with 645, Molokai with 428, Lanai with 101 and Hana with 54. The numbers increased last year for all locations except Molokai, where there was a nearly 2 percent decrease from 435 abuse incidents reported in 2011.

The largest percentage increase was in Hana, where abuse incidents increased nearly 69 percent from 32 incidents in 2011. In Kihei, the increase was 46 percent from 534 incidents in 2011. Lahaina incidents rose by 27 percent from 570 in 2011, and Wailuku incidents increased by nearly 26 percent from 774 in 2011. The increase Upcountry was 11.5 percent, from 833 incidents in 2011.

While the numbers of initial abuse calls to police have increased in recent years, the rate of increase has slowed. Police reported a 13.6 percent increase in 2011 from the 3,899 abuse reports in 2010. That followed a 37 percent increase from 2,388 abuse calls in 2009.

Moniz said she thinks the higher numbers show that the community is responding to domestic violence by seeking intervention.

Women Helping Women has seen an increase in restraining order petitions, which also are being sought by parents who are threatened by adult children, roommates and former spouses, she said. The agency helps people file Family Court restraining orders in Lahaina and on Lanai, as well as in Central Maui.

Feinberg said PACT is seeing an increase in restraining orders sought because of cyberstalking, at times with cellphones used to repeatedly text or call victims.

PACT helps people with about 30 restraining orders a month, Feinberg said, “but we know more people could seek them.”

“That’s where friends are so crucial,” she said. “They can underscore the importance of them getting help before it’s too late.

“You don’t have to be a survivor of physical abuse to get a restraining order.”

She said the agency also is seeing an increase in psychological abuse, for example when someone threatens to kill himself if a partner leaves or threatens to harm or take pets.

“We encourage people to come forward with those kinds of concerns,” Feinberg said. “Often in a continuum, that’s where it starts.”

If people don’t want to go in person to the Family Peace Center in Wailuku, they can call PACT at 244-2330 for help, Feinberg said.

Calls also can be made to Women Helping Women’s 24-hour domestic violence hot line at 579-9581.

At the domestic violence shelter run by the agency, “we have been packed,” Moniz said.

The numbers of women and children staying at the shelter used to drop into single digits at times, “but not for the past four years,” Moniz said.

“We have been constantly really, really busy,” she said. “We need more space, but it costs money to have space.”

With its policy of not turning anyone away, “if a woman qualifies, we will make space,” Moniz said.

In addition to helping in a domestic violence crisis, Women Helping Women has been focusing on helping women after the crisis passes, Moniz said.

Its ReVive Resale Boutique in the old Kahului Shopping Center doubles as a job-training ground for women as they prepare to re-enter the workforce. Moniz said women can start by sorting donations in the back of the store, then shift to working in the store arranging clothes and interacting with customers. “We’re finding that’s really a big need for some of our women,” she said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at