Dawn Ige, wife of Gov. David Ige, pledged her husband’s support to ending domestic violence during the Domestic Violence Action Center’s 25th anniversary luncheon Thursday.

Hawaii’s First Lady said she plans to work directly with the center to combat domestic violence. She said she feels as a mother that “strong families are the foundation of strong communities.”

She shared her insight as a teacher, and stressed the need for continued training to help educators identify and respond to signs of abuse at school. It’s evident when children are experiencing abuse at home, she said.

Laakea Healing Center hula dancers shared their stories of recovering from addiction and violence.

Marina Riker

The DVAC has provided domestic violence survivors and their families with shelters and services since 1990. The center aims to increase awareness of domestic violence through community participation and legislation. The DVAC is Hawaii’s only center that provides legal representation, help-line assistance, community education, training for system reform and many other services for victims of domestic violence.

“It’s good to have friend in high places, don’t you think?” DVAC Chairwoman Jade Moon said, referring to Dawn Ige.

The luncheon featured performances by Raiatea Helm and hula by Laakea Healing Services, which celebrated its two-year anniversary as a facility for addiction rehabilitation and education. After the hula performances, each dancer shared an affirmation that had helped her through recovery.

A number of guest speakers shared their own experiences with domestic violence and assault, including Moon, Jackie Young and Annette Amaral.

Amaral said when she was young, “domestic violence” was called “wife-beating,” and wasn’t a crime. There weren’t any domestic violence shelters, and no one ever talked about the issue. If police were called, they had a “hands-in-pockets” way of dealing with violence, she said.

When Amaral’s mother was beaten, police did nothing. She later became a police officer and activist to stop domestic violence. She wanted to make sure that when children in abusive homes saw her uniform, it meant that they were safe.

Young the former Hawaii House vice speaker, said she was assaulted while attending college at the University of Hawaii. She said that the only way to combat violence against women is to talk about it.

“It pains me to see that it’s still an issue,” Young said.

Moon, a domestic violence survivor, urged attendees to get involved and support DVAC, which provides resources for victims who might not have the economic means to get out of an abusive relationship. She also stressed that domestic violence is an issue that goes beyond social markers like race, economic status, gender and religion.

“People have to understand the complexities of what happens and why it takes so long to leave,” she said.

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