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Island Voices: University of Hawaiʻi Helps Survivors of Domestic Abuse

This editorial by UH President David Lassner was published in The Star Advertiser on February 14 2021.

In the not too distant past, domestic violence or intimate partner violence was not openly discussed in the community or the workplace. That a loved one would harm their intimate partner in coercive, deliberate, and violent ways was a difficult truth that many would prefer to minimize or deny. Marital and intimate “disputes” were viewed as private matters, and even trained professionals experienced many challenges in developing safe interventions for victims who were caught by abusive partners


We now understand the prevalence of domestic violence globally and, sadly, here in Hawaiʻi . We now know that while domestic violence can affect anyone, there are certain populations that are even more vulnerable, including indigenous populations, gender minorities and the disabled, especially when these identities intersect


Because its omnipresence is often hidden from view, domestic violence is considered by many experts to be a silent global pandemic. And incidents are dramatically increasing in this global COVID-19 pandemic, driven by job losses, economic insecurity, and the closing of homes and families to protect our health.

In Hawaiʻi the Domestic Violence Action Center ( DVAC ) has been at the forefront of work to help and protect victims and reduce the prevalence of domestic violence in our communities . Throughout its three decades of systemic advocacy and direct service provision to survivors and their families, DVAC has consistently argued that the omnipresent but dark nature of the domestic requires the commitment of leaders of all across sectors and across systems to recognize roles to address this public health crisis and commit to improving institutional responses and supporting creative and collaborative prevention strategies.

To that end, I am honored to serve on the DVAC Council of Advisors. I am well aware that the effort to keep survivors of domestic violence safe during these unprecedented times requires thoughtful discussions on how to improve partnerships and enhance collaborations. Six years ago, the University of Hawaiʻi began developing a comprehensive plan to strengthen our own system-wide infrastructure, which would support students and employees survivors of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence.

We broaden our involvement in the community and increase our visible commitment to ending intimate partner violence through collaborative and community-based initiatives like the Men's March Against Violence. In 2015, we revised our policies and procedures to prohibit dating / domestic violence and stalking. That same year, we increased access to confidential resources available to members of our campus communities. We formalized statewide relationships and partnerships with DVAC the Hawaiʻi State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Children's and Family Services, and YWCA Kauai. We continue to work with these agencies to provide survivor-centered support services while providing collaborative training programs for our students and employees. And now we regularly administer campus weather surveys so that we can understand the breadth and depth of domestic violence within our community.

We are proud to work with DVAC and we look forward to working with them and other partners to develop more innovative ways to build a stronger safety net for survivors and reduce incidence levels. If there is any promise to defeat this silent pandemic, we must be guided by the experience and institutional expertise of those working on the front lines, such as DVAC .


As DVAC celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, we honor an incredible legacy of visionary advocacy work to increase the safety of survivors and ensure abuser accountability. Congratulations and many thanks to DVAC for three decades of service and leadership in ending intimate partner violence. We are honored to be part of your shared journey.

Additional Information for the Community UH

Text feature for the Domestic Violence Action Center Helpline (Statewide)

Due to COVID-19, the Domestic Violence Action Center helpline has established a new number to respond to survivors' text messages. The helpline can provide support, risk assessment, safety planning, resources, and referrals to the Domestic Violence Action Center's legal and advocacy services to survivors who may not be able to speak on the phone while in quarantine.

  • If you are unable to speak safely, you can text (605) 956-5680 to chat with a specialist on the helpline Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. M. At 5 p. M.
  • If you prefer to speak to someone by phone, you can call the helpline at (808) 531-3371 or toll free (800) 690-6200 to speak with someone during these hours.
  • If your partner comes home or comes in while you are talking to the helpline, text “STOP” and delete the text conversation so it cannot be discovered.
  • On the helpline, the safety of the callers is a priority, so all phone calls and chats are completely confidential.

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