I am compelled to offer these perspectives on domestic violence, following recent homicides. My comments to reporters seemed incomplete when included in the articles covering the crimes.

The media inquiry goes something like this: Why does this happen? What is going on? Is it the economy? What are the warning signs? What can people do?

My reply seems redundant when I hear myself responding but, in reality, my comments don't ever fully make it into the piece.

We see brutal acts of domestic violence every day at domestic violence programs across the state. We are always trying to educate the community that domestic violence is a problem of significant proportion, and that it demands an effective system and sufficient resources to help families cope, survive, escape or heal.

The benefit we derive is the ability to help people whose lives and spirits are in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, our pleas for support often are minimized and become part of a long list of other community needs to be considered. So be it.

That brings me to the discussion of murder.

We are always going to experience domestic homicides. When a murder occurs, it is the ultimate act, the escalation of violence that has been perpetrated or planned by an abuser. The murder is a way to continue demonstrating the control he or she believes he or she has and is entitled to.

This is precisely why it is imperative for us to help the community see this as a problem that affects everyone. And that there is a role we each can play — not by intervening, necessarily, at the time of the violence, but providing information about options, demonstrating a willingness to listen, trying to understand the challenges victims face, naming the behaviors that are observed and continuing to be as supportive as possible.

Domestic homicides may be an expression of despair as well. A person who believes he has no other options has a high probability of resorting to this option. Express your concerns. Let the person know you are aware that something appears to be troubling them. Offer help, if you can. Call for help, if you can't.

Often, the newspapers quote others who say, "He seemed like such a nice person." Remember, the worst behavior is saved for behind closed doors. But there may be signs that are going unnoticed, or minimized as not being that serious. If there is any kind of pattern, a "cluster" of things that cause concern, don't dismiss the situation. If you need help sorting this out, call a domestic violence program and they can help talk you through the issues.

The loss of a loved one to a domestic violence murder is a horrible tragedy. The rage, guilt and sadness are unimaginable for those of us who have not lost a family member in this way.

Let us do the best we can to disseminate information about domestic violence, because awareness is the first step to prevention. Let's support domestic violence programs because their work is key to a safe community and healthy families. Safe families lay the foundation for a future free from violence.

Peace on earth begins at home.


Nanci Kreidman is chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center in Honolulu.

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