Domestic Violence Action Center helps victims of abuse

Photo: Chelsey Stewart is HonCC’s campus survivor advocate.

Chris Garcia

Students and faculty can now seek help with domestic violence issues through the Domestic Violence Action Center on campus.

The center is an Oahu-based non-profit, advocacy and legal agency that provides long- and short-term assistance on domestic violence.

The center helps the college community via the Survivor Advocate Program, which provides “advocacy services for gender-based violence impacting the campus community,” said Chelsey Stewart, HonCC’s campus survivor advocate.

A “campus survivor,” she explains, is someone who is currently experiencing or has experienced domestic violence in the past. Stewart, who works at HonCC and Windward CC, helps “anyone from the university system,” including students, faculty, staff, and administration.

Stewart graduated Chaminade University, obtaining her BS degree in criminology and Criminal Justice and MS degree in Criminal Justice Administration. “I’m a proud feminist, so feminism and crime, women’s issues…DVAC combined all of my passions into one,” she said.

Stewart defines domestic violence as “when one person tries to take control over another person or persons.” She emphasizes that domestic violence does not just involve physical abuse; emotional, financial, and sexual Violence, as well as Isolation, all play a part in violence and abuse.

The center has observed various possible controlling/abusive behaviors “on-campus and in college dating relationships.” Some of these behaviors include the forcing of a partner to pick between them and their friends /family (Isolation) and transferring to a partner’s class to watch them (academic abuse).

“I’m a confidential resource…I’m not going to report to anyone on the campus what I talk to you about,” she said. Her phone number is (808) 294-5483. Her office is in Building 6, Room 7. Stewart’s office hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

DVAC can only directly help people on the island of O’ahu. To become a client, one must contact Stewart or call the DVAC helpline at (808) 531-3771 to get a full assessment. This is done to figure out the caller’s situation. DVAC staff then determines whether or not a person is a victim of Domestic Violence.

The centerʻs specific focus is on “domestic violence and intimate partner relationships,” including boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, and same-sex relationships. The relationship must be intimate, though. She also says that DVAC provides “assistance and brief services to people that are in other forms of Domestic Violence situations,” such as familial disputes. Long-term services, however, are only available for “…victims in those intimate relationships.”

Legal service attorneys only assist in family court, known criminal court, and small claims. They help with divorce, paternity, family court temporary restraining orders (TRO), and post decree representation. Stewart also says that DVAC’s case management “is similar to what social workers do…we try to turn victims into survivors.”

DVAC Advocates cannot give legal advice to victims. However, they can explain the legal system and give out pertaining information. Advocates can also accompany victims to court to provide emotional support. DVAC does have legal service attorneys, however.

A major counseling program for DVAC is Ho’oikaika ‘Ohana, a “Native Hawaiian cultural therapy support group.” The program is tailored to help Native Hawaiian families by utilizing “culturally responsive trauma-informed program services.” Stewart says former victims in college who are “still dealing with the emotional side of their abuse” can call the DVAC helpline to meet with a Ho’oikika support group.

Other DVAC programs that give awareness, prevention and help include (but not limited to): DV Action Ready (for employees of a business or company), Safe on Scene (tailored for victims at the scene of a Domestic Violence incident), and the Teen Alert Program (provides workshops to colleges, private high schools, and public high schools).

If clients cannot get direct service from DVAC, they will always refer people to other organizations that can help. Stewart says, “Sometimes our wait list can be really long,” due to their limited number of attorneys. However, she expresses that they do their best to give direct service or refer anyone seeking help to other organizations.

Stewart is currently trying to inform the campus community about DVAC and Domestic Violence Awareness. She has already contacted different campus programs, such as TRIO-Student Support Service and the College Achievement and Retention Experience (C.A.R.E.). She said, “October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so I’m hoping to maybe to do some stuff on the campus during that period.”

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