Domestic violence awareness focus of events

The University of Hawaii Maui College is marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month with two community events, including one that organizers hope will change the way people view domestic violence.

A play, video and panel discussion will be part of “Violence Against Women is a Men’s Issue” from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday in the Pilina Building Multipurpose Room at the Kahului campus.

“Domestic violence awareness activities have always centered around victims telling their story,” said Lee Stein, UH-MC Human Services Program coordinator. “The focus is ‘Why does she stay?’ instead of ‘Why does he hit her?’ When we leave out who’s perpetrating the violence, the only thing we see is the victim.

“How do we move the conversation to ‘Why is he doing this?’ “

The event will begin with the play “Maya’s Story: Blanketed by Shame, Empowered by Support.”

Then, a 20-minute video by Jackson Katz, educator, author and filmmaker, will be shown on the topic “Violence Against Women is a Men’s Issue.”

That will be followed by a discussion with a panel including 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen, Maui County First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera, UH-MC personal counselor Aris Banaag, Joe Amico and Bill Staton.

Amico, a retired probation officer, and Staton, a retired state veterans representative, have spent years working with men who have used violence in intimate relationships, Stein said.

She said goals of the event include engaging more nonviolent men to become allies in the effort to stop violence against women and exploring possibilities for bystander intervention.

“Many of us are passive observers of the things that lead to violence against women,” she said. “The idea of bystander intervention is to try to stop things. When we hear the neighbors having a fight next door, it’s our business too. From that sense, we can all be bettering the fight to stop violence against women.”

Stein cautions that people shouldn’t put themselves at risk by intervening but can take steps such as challenging someone who tells jokes that are demeaning to women.

“It’s going to take a large groundswell to interrupt this behavior because we don’t even talk about it,” Stein said.

She said “victimization is up on Maui over the last few years,” and there’s less government funding to pay for people arrested in domestic violence cases to participate in intervention programs.

“So we’re in a really critical place,” she said. “If there’s no intervention, that doesn’t necessarily change the behavior. We need a community conversation about these things because it really is harming the community.

“It hurts men as well as women. And children who witness this are tremendous victims of domestic violence.”

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.

“What we want to do is help nonviolent men in helping stop violence against women,” Stein said. “That’s what’s been missing for such a long time.

“We need to have conversations because women aren’t beating themselves up. While some men are victims, it is primarily male to female in terms of violence. We’re trying to open the conversation in a new area. It isn’t to blame men in any way.”

At the event, Women Helping Women, Parents and Children Together and Child & Family Service will have tables set up with brochures outlining their domestic violence programs and resources. Representatives from the organizations will be available to answer questions.

“It’s just raising awareness,” Stein said. “It is where it starts.”

She said she hopes the event will lead to continuing community discussion.

In another community event on Monday, T-shirts with messages about stopping domestic violence will be displayed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. near the Paina Building on campus. For the event, affiliated with the national Clothesline Project, people can bring a T-shirt to decorate to express their emotions about domestic violence. Paper T-shirt cutouts also will be available for people to write messages on.

The events are sponsored by the UH-MC Human Services Program, Malama Lahui Kanaka Human Services Club and Pau Violence-Pono Love Club.