Joyful Heart Foundation brings awareness to domestic violence and sexual abuse

Joyful Heart Foundation brings awareness to domestic violence and sexual abuse

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In Hawaii, one in seven women is sexually assaulted, according to advocates for victims.

The Joyful Heart Foundation launched its "Hawaii Says NO MORE" campaign two years ago, which aims to create awareness, encourage conversation and end the social stigma surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault in Hawaii.

"We really believe that if we engage the entire community, in raising visibility, supporting survivors, ending the stigma that we can work together to stop this violence and have a place here in Hawaii and the rest of the country where there is no domestic violence or sexual assault," Kata Issari, Hawaii's Joyful Hearts Foundation executive director, said.

Their mission is to transform society's response to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse; to support survivors, and to end the violence.

Issari said she believes the aloha spirit can unite the community and create a supportive space for those who were impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault.

"When we have the compassion that is so much a part of the aloha spirit, then that is a way we can say to survivors, 'We believe you, we care about what happens to you and that we are going to work together to stop this violence from happening,'" she said.

Hawaii News Now has partnered with Joyful Heart Foundation to produce public service announcements in recognition of October being the domestic violence awareness month.

Renowned artist and hula dancer Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole was one of several participants in the public service announcement as a way to give back to the community.

But Kanakaole has experienced firsthand the causes she is fighting against.

"At age 5, I was put into the system through child protective services," Kanakaole said.

She feels that participating in the campaign was a way to heal.

"The experience was surreal-- it's more than a public service, it's a personal service. Many of the words resonate with you because they are your experiences, and it's kind of surreal to be asked to read them aloud into the camera. And the only thing that is staring back at you is yourself, so it was a beautiful self-reflection," she said.

The Joyful Heart Foundation was founded in Hawaii by actress Mariska Hargitay. She plays Detective Olivia Benson on "Law and Order: SVU."

She said her role has opened her eyes to the epidemics of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.

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