Event educates about domestic violence

Wendy Mow-Taira (left) volunteered to help at the exhibit in the library – Cynthia Lee Sinclair
Wendy Mow-Taira (left) volunteered to help at the exhibit in the library – Cynthia Lee Sinclair

Every year around Valentine’s Day, WCC counselor Kate Zane puts on a program called “Empty Place at the Table,” which commemorates lives lost to domestic violence.

The event seeks to honor those who are now absent from the family dinner table and to raise awareness of this important issue.

On February 11, there was a special display in the library. A beautiful table was set with nine places. At each place, there was a photo of a person and the story of how they died. The stories featured around the table were tragic and chilling.

“When you put a face to a crime it makes it a reality,” said WCC student Michelle Ah Mook Sang. “The reality begins to hit home when you realize it could be your neighbor, a relative or me.”

The first story encountered at the table was a horrific tale of a 24-year-old woman.

On January 18, the woman and her boyfriend were arguing in a parked car in Kahalu‘u. He accused her of seeing someone else. He had about three inches of gasoline in a fast food drink cup. He threw it on her and lit it on fire.

The woman was taken to the intensive care burn unit at Straub Hospital in serious condition and treated for burns to 30 percent of her body.

The event featured the tragic stories of victims of domestic violence – Cynthia Lee Sinclair
The event featured the tragic stories of victims of domestic violence – Cynthia Lee Sinclair

While this victim did not lose her life, she will suffer for many years due to the injuries from this brutal attack.

The boyfriend was later arrested and charged with attempted murder and other charges. His bail was set at $1 million. If convicted he could receive 25 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Another place at the table featured a story that happened on February 3.

A woman in her late sixties was stabbed and killed by her husband. Her sister was also treated for injuries sustained in the attack.

Two young grandkids were sleeping with the couple when the incident happened. They ran into the other room and woke their auntie informing her of what was going on.

Children are often collateral damage in domestic violence situations. Not only do they have to deal with the loss of a parent, but sometimes they have to deal with the trauma of having witnessed the violence.

As part of the February 11 event on campus, a group of people met in the courtyard outside the library at noon. A bell was rung nine times, one for each place set at the table. Then a special poem was read called “Remember My Name,” written by Kimberly A. Collins, a poet and domestic violence advocate.

Ashley Shankles, a former WCC student, performed two powerful poems that she wrote about a rape experience she had at the hands of a boyfriend.

The event also featured information tables in the library courtyard: a table for Safe Places, a WCC program promoting gender equality; another from the Associated Students of University of Hawai‘i-Windward Community College, promoting healthy relationships; and another table providing information about support services for victims of domestic violence.

“If even one person is moved to get help after viewing the exhibit, then it has been a success,” Zane said.

Zane’s main focus is on prevention. She works tirelessly to present different events each year.

Last October, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a program called “The Prison Monologues,” was invited to campus, in which several former and current female inmates shared their stories of abuse and recovery.

Also in October, there was a campus screening of No More, Title 9 Matters, a film made by volunteers and written by WCC theatre lecturer Taurie Kinoshita.

On March 8 at 5:30 p.m., there will be a screening of the documentary The Hunting Ground about sexual assaults on American college campuses.

Zane plans to feature several events in April, which is Sexual Violence and Child Abuse Awareness Month.

Look for flyers around school for more information on events, times and locations.

by Cynthia Lee Sinclair, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter