Maui’s only domestic violence hotline sees calls for help double since wildfires

Calls to Maui’s only 24-hour domestic violence emergency hotline more than doubled in the wake of the August 8th wildfires.
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 9:44 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 3:59 AM HST
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LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Calls to Maui’s only 24-hour domestic violence emergency hotline more than doubled in the wake of the Aug. 8 wildfires.

Calls to Women Helping Women Maui went up from 250 a month to more than 550. The agency said the numbers are stabilizing, but the cases are becoming more serious.

“We’re seeing more cases on the sex assault side, a lot more DV (domestic violence), a lot more substance abuse and all of the things that come with being a part of a tragedy and a national incident,” said Women Helping Women Executive Director Sanoe Kaaihue.

FEMA said the surge is consistent with research showing the link between violence and stress, which is increased by disasters.

FEMA response teams report more than 12,000 behavioral health encounters on Maui since August 8. And while experts say the shock is wearing off, secondary traumas are setting in.

“We’re seeing it more and more, I think, in the form of depression, anxiety, even hypersensitivity is another big one that people are exhibiting during this time,” Kaaihue said.

“If they had pre-existing psychiatric or psychological conditions, we can anticipate that some of those might be more challenged or more exacerbated at this time,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Richard Ries.

Ries, who’s the former chair of the State Council on Mental Health, said it’s unfortunate but not surprising that domestic violence cases have increased. It’s something that also happened during the pandemic.

In this case, children who lost homes or schools will also need a high degree of support to avoid long-term problems.

“We can anticipate that the kids are going to have some challenges, and parents are going to have greater responsibility to track and support their kids so that they continue to be successful in school,” Ries said.

The need is also placing stresses on mental health and domestic violence care providers, who are doing their best to keep up with the demand.

“Most of the providers that I’m in contact with are experiencing a very high degree of need from their client base and aren’t having a lot of room to take on new cases., Ries said.

“We’re always concerned about, okay, how long is this gonna last, and can we sustain at the level that we are right now,” Kaaihue said.


Visit for a list of hotlines and programs for domestic abuse survivors.

CFS and others offer the following domestic violence hotlines as well:

  • 841-0822 - Oahu
  • 322-7233 – West Hawaii Island
  • 959-8864 – East Hawaii Island
  • 245-6362 – Kauai, operated by the YWCA Crisis Hotline
  • 579-9581 – Maui, operated by Women Helping Women
  • 567-6888 – Molokai, operated by Moloka’i Community Service Council


Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) on Oahu:

  • 531-3771 - Oahu helpline
  • 800-690-6200 Toll-Free helpline
  • 605-956-5680 - Texting line
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)