Victims of physical abuse can turn to Domestic Violence Action Center.

Several years ago, Noelani met her then-boyfriend. He was, Noelani thought, exactly who she’d been looking for.

Less than a year into the relation ship, though, she began to see a different side of him. ?There were excessive phone calls received at work, among verbal and emotional abuse and stalking. ?The first time he struck Noelani, her head hit the passenger window, bouncing off four times.

?Then she met with someone from Domestic Violence Action Center—someone who helped Noelani obtain a restraining order and get her life back on track. Today, she’s been out of the relationship for three years, and will be graduating from college this winter.

Unfortunately, stories like Noelani’s are not uncommon. Annually, Domestic Violence Action Center—the only organization of its kind in the state of Hawai‘i— works with more than 5,000 people, according to CEO Nanci Kreidman.

Kreidman began the agency in 1990, working with only one other part-timer. Today, Domestic Violence Action Center boasts 48 employees. ?There are attorneys who carry out legal proceedings, advocates who help victims transition out of abusive relationships, educators, counselors and community organizers.

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ARTafterDARK Sweet event sponsored by Domestic Violence Action Center (photo courtesy Honolulu Museum of Art/Shuzo Uemoto).

?Then there are programs that work with teens, for example, in providing adolescents with an understanding of what a healthy relationship is, and how to spot red ? ags. A teen advocate also works with youths who may already be in abusive relationships. ?The agency also offers two federally funded programs that allow it to work closely with Native Hawaiian and Filipino communities in particular.

Yet another plan works with victims to create a safety plan—actionable steps that will help someone leave an abusive relationship. Last year alone, Domestic Violence Action Center completed 3,759 safety plans.

It is, Kreidman explains, certainly a gender-based issue.

“When you think about the ways that we’re all socialized, girls and boys, it makes sense,” she says. “Boys are taught to be tough and brave and in charge, and girls not so much.”

Still, she says it is important to remember that domestic violence does not discriminate against gender, education, social status, religion—anything.

“You read this all the time, but I’m here to tell you it’s really true,” she says.

Education remains one of the organization’s biggest initiatives. ?There are, says Kreidman, many myths and misconceptions that in some cases can do more harm than help for victims.

It’s easy as an outsider looking in to see the problem, to know that it’s affecting children (if they have any), and to believe that a person should leave an abusive partner or spouse. But the fact of the matter is, nothing about being in a domestically abusive situation is easy on the victim.

“When you make a commitment to a relationship, or investment in a relationship, you don’t walk away from it easily—no matter who you are, or no matter what the challenges are,” Kreidman says. “To assume that it’s always like that—that he’s always a monster, and she’s always in fear—is really not accurate.

“We have to create the space to allow people to make the best choices they can, given their circumstances.”

As Domestic Violence Action Center celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, Kreidman views its commitment to the community as twofold: ?first, to help those who are suffering right now, and to also lay the groundwork for a future in which there is no domestic violence.

It’s a lofty goal, one that isn’t entirely impossible but will require everyone’s involvement—even if it’s simply getting educated.

“We can’t solve this problem alone,” Kreidman says. “We need the community to stand beside us, and we need all of our sectors … to all be working with us in the ways that they can, so that we together create a healthy community.

“Safe families are at the core of a healthy community.”

And none of what the organization has accomplished so far would have been possible without the support it has received.

“Celebrating the milestone of the anniversary belongs to the entire community,” Kreidman says. “Without the persistence and the patience and the investment of the entire community, we would not be where we are.”

Noelani’s story of survival is one of 24 others that commemorate Domestic Violence Action Center’s 25th anniversary. To read more, and to learn more about the organization and how to get involved, visit domesticviolenceactioncenter.org.