Hawai'i Says NO MORE: Domestic violence, sexual assault awareness campaign

Hawai'i Says NO MORE: Domestic violence, sexual assault awareness campaign

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Locally, more than one in seven women are survivors of sexual assault. If that number surprises you, you're not alone.

Officials say, in Fixed! , more than 50,000 women are survivors of domestic violence and another 67,000 of sexual assault.

"500 women seek shelter everyday in Hawai'i -- that's people we know, but we don't hear about it," said Rachael Wong, Director of the state Department of Human Services.

That's exactly what the Hawai'i Says NO MORE initiative hopes to put an end to. More than a dozen local non-profit organizations have joined together to call attention to and encourage discussion about domestic violence and sexual assault within our own community.

"Despite this prevalence, these issues remain under-resourced, under-researched and often times misunderstood. For the survivors that have experienced these crimes, they are often times faced with a tremendous amount of shame and stigma. With Hawai'i Says NO MORE, that's what we want to change -- to lessen the stigma, to increase awareness and to give people in the community an opportunity to learn more and to get involved because together, I promise we can end this," said Maile Zambuto, CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation.

Organizers say that starts with speaking out and taking a very "public" stand against what has often been treated as a "private" problem. It's a technique that has found great success in recent public service announcements by the Joyful Heart Foundation, which was established here in Hawai'i by actress Mariska Hargitay.

"A big part of our mission is to shed light," said Zambuto, a sexual assault survivor herself. "One thing about domestic violence and sexual assault is that these are complex issues that are often hard to talk about and so anything we can do to bring awareness to these issues and break that silence, we're very excited about."

The commercials feature Hollywood actors, musicians and even some of the NFL's biggest stars.

Zambuto says the PSAs have been seen by more than 1.6 billion people across the country and over $50 million dollars of pro-bono air time was donated, including during NFL broadcasts. The league was plagued this season by domestic violence incidents involving some of it's biggest names, including Ray Rice.

"No more ignorance. No more excuses. No more," participants say as they look straight into the camera.

Zambuto says the announcements have had such impact, Hargitay plans to come to Hawai'i this summer to direct spots utilizing local talent and influential leaders.

"We heard loud and clear from the community, people wanted their own PSA," said Zambuto.

In the meantime, you can become a part of the nationwide effort to say "NO MORE" to domestic violence and sexual assault by joining the Hawai'i Says NO MORE initiative. All you have to do is log-on HERE. Print a sign, fill it out with your pledge and post it to social media -- think of it as a selfie that serves a purpose.

"The idea is to let people know that you are making a commitment to say no more for whatever that is -- if it means no more silence, no more domestic violence, or no more violence period," said Nalani Holliday, who owns Red Pineapple at Ward Center where a selfie station has been set up for NO MORE week, which starts on March 9.

"The whole idea is this is going to take a village, so every needs to be able to know when to say NO MORE. If only some of us do, we're not going to be able to combat the problem," said Holliday.

Wong says the organizations that have joined forces to combat domestic violence and sexual assault highlight the importance of everyone's involvement. The include: Catholic Charities Hawai'i, Child & Family Service, the Hawaii State Commission Against Domestic Violence, the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Hawaii Youth Services Network, Joyful Heart Foundation, Parents and Children Together, the State of Hawai'i Department of the Attorney General, the State of Hawai'i Department of Human Services, The University of Hawai'i at Hilo Student Health and Wellness, The University of Hawai'i at Manoa Office of Gender Equity, the Windward Spouse Abuse Shelter, Women Helping Women, and YWCA of O'ahu.

"I want to share with people, you're not alone. There's a network of folks. There's a community of support. Reach out. Talk to someone. Know you're supported," said Wong.

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