A domestic violence survivor shares her story: ‘Once I left, I felt free’

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Signs of abuse and what to do

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The murder of former Hawaii woman Maya Millete sheds light on how serious domestic violence can get. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and there are several ways to identify abuse and to get help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. In Hawaii, police reported a 16% increase in domestic violence calls within the last year.

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Domestic violence is about the abuser having power and control over their victim, and there are resources for those who need help. One survivor said getting out was one of the hardest things she ever did. Now, more than a year later, she wishes she left sooner.

“Once I left, I felt free.”

Domestic violence survivor

For her, the breaking point came when her boyfriend attacked her during her pregnancy.

“I was choked, and I was picked up off the floor and slammed into the wall. At the time, I was pregnant,” she explained as tears welled up in her eyes and she struggled to speak. “And I had to protect the baby.”

She said she found a way out through a doctor’s visit.

“My doctor had shown me a card, and I think it’s a pretty standard procedure. ‘Have you ever been kicked or have you ever been pushed or punched? Have you ever, or are you experiencing these things at home?’ It kind of triggered me.”

This doctor’s visit was when she broke down.

“I was crying uncontrollably, and the doctor was there pretty much to comfort me and tell me that there are resources available that help with DV situations.”

This domestic violence survivor chose to share her story because she wants other women being abused to know they are not alone.

“There are people out there that have gone through your same experiences, that want to help you and that can relate to you.”

Domestic Violence survivor

Nanci Kreidman, CEO of the Domestic Violence Action Center, said it can happen to anyone.

“Domestic violence does not discriminate,” Kreidman said. “The people we listen to and who reach out to us are from every neighborhood on the island.”

Here is a list of questions to ask and signs to look for if you suspect someone is being abused:

  • Have they made sudden changes in life patterns?
  • Are they skipping work, becoming more reclusive and not attending family functions that they normally would?
  • Are they wearing unseasonable clothes — like long sleeves, pants and glasses — to cover up bruises?
  • Do they always look at their partner as if to ask permission before they speak?
  • Does their partner call or text constantly to check up on them?

“The control that an abuser has over their partner creates limitations, places restrictions on the person,” Kreidman explained.

She also said to trust your instincts.

“We tend to minimize or look the other way or disbelieve that this could be happening to somebody that we know,” Kreidman added.

Robert Boyack, Child and Family Service Program Administrator, said the best way to help those going through domestic violence is to listen and be there for them.

“The best thing you can do is just to be there for them to be non-judgmental,” Boyack explained. “Let them know that you are there for them.”

He said people also need to give them time and be patient with them — it is not realistic to expect them to immediately be able to make a change.

“They have been proceeding in this relationship for years (in many cases). And for them to just change on a click of a switch — it’s not practical.”

Boyack also said to be careful not to judge them.

“Don’t re-victimize them. Don’t give them comments like, ‘Why don’t you just leave? What are you doing with him?’ These type of comments can be very damaging for them.”

Robert Boyack, Child and Family Service Program Administrator

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If you or someone you know needs help, call or text the Domestic Violence Action Center hotline at 605-956-5680. You can also contact the Child and Family Service center crisis hotline for domestic violence at 808-841-0822.

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