Will Our Lawmakers Fight Domestic Violence? - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Angelina Mercado

Angelina Mercado is the executive director of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Programs that service victims of domestic violence across the state are bracing themselves for what comes next. Both the service providers and the people they serve are doing their best to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the way that disasters have unfolded elsewhere tells us that it is not just about surviving the eye of the storm: it’s also about what comes after. Even if they manage to stay safe, survivors still face the daunting challenge of figuring out how to cope after losing their homes, their jobs, and the ability to provide for their families while also trying to address the trauma and circumstances of their abuse.

COVID-19 is hurting everyone. Yet, for those who are already struggling with domestic violence and child maltreatment, staying at home and the decline of the state’s economy present a unique terror.

Senate Gallery with very few members of the public observing crossover session.
Lawmakers are being urged to help victims of domestic violence. The state Senate, pictured, will resume its session Monday along with the House. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Staying at home may mean staying close to one’s abuser. Staying at home means children who are abused do not have other eyes — teachers, coaches, school friends — on them to sound the alarm.

Pre-COVID-19, the country had a far from perfect system of child welfare and support for those trapped in abusive relationships and dangerous domestic circumstances. The pandemic has only exacerbated the danger for those who find themselves in those situations. As legislators return from their recess, they have a particular responsibility to these most vulnerable of the constituents they were elected to serve.

Safety Net Already Frayed

There is a great deal of community anxiety and expectation about how and when the aid provided under the CARES Act will be disbursed. But our lawmakers need to think further ahead to how we will not just preserve, but strengthen, the already frayed safety net that supports victims of domestic violence.

With COVID-19-related fatalities exceeding 120,000 and still climbing, and unemployment running out, there are those who believe this country has been poorly run. Hawaii can’t afford to be a poorly run state.

We can’t afford to cut the funding to agencies that provide critical social services such as the Department of Human Services, the Judiciary and the Department of Health and nonprofits like domestic violence programs. Domestic violence programs are doing the hard work, at risk to their own health and safety, to provide services to victims. It is up to our lawmakers and to us as a community whether we choose to keep those services available.

Doing so will maintain the network of mental health, physical health, substance abuse, child care, and education services that so many survivors rely on to be able to leave their abusive relationships.

After a month of thinking about a new normal, are our lawmakers now ready to protect funding for services that help keep families safe? Are they ready to take a comprehensive look at what families at risk need to reduce domestic violence and child abuse?

Staying at home may mean staying close to one’s abuser.

Budget reductions may satisfy those who want to make up for revenues lost because of the shutdown, but it is impossible to account for the cost in terms of human suffering and ruined lives.

Commitment To Safety

The pandemic has caught victims between a rock and a hard place: stay silent and endure abuse, or leave and face a bleak and uncertain future of unemployment, food insecurity and houselessness. The most vulnerable in our community need to see and hear that we are serious about ensuring their safety.

Protecting funding for services in the long term will send a strong message that Hawaii at least is not a poorly run state. It will send a clear message that our commitment to ending domestic violence is real.

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About the Author

Angelina Mercado

Angelina Mercado is the executive director of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Latest Comments (0)

Thank you Angelina, for a needed article. Gender issues are the most intractable of our society's ills. With sex offenders in the White House and on the Supreme court,  it is shockingly clear that raising consciousness about gender-based violence is a heavy lift. Some will even say "let these matters stay within the family" not recognizing the power differential that exists within families. Here's an idea, only slightly tongue in cheek, to address police brutality and domestic violence indifference: replace all male police officers with female ones.  

TannedTom · 3 years ago

Despite the best intentions, government intervention in family matters tends to be unnecessarily heavy-handed and counterproductive. Govt involvement should be the last resort, after all efforts to restore peace and preserve the family have been exhausted.

Chiquita · 3 years ago

It will be another disappointment if our legislators reduce needed funding for erstwhile programs that serve the people. Domestic Violence is a bonafide issue. The legislature will have to be very creative in their reasons to defund any programs they place on the chopping block. Productive programs serve the people in need. I suspect the programs that serve these people may not provide the voter-power politicians seek to make their support of such programs vote efficient. I can appreciate that logic...if I was a politician. I am not. I am just one vote that favors the politician that recognizes their need to serve the people in need. So, serve!

Rampnt_1 · 3 years ago

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