Local advocates relieved, concerned over renewed women protection act

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Mar 07 2013 05:56:00 PM HST

The new law didn't used to be controversial, but last week a third of House members voted against it.

HONOLULU -

"We miss Karen terribly," said Kevin Callahan, whose girlfriend Karen Ertell was strangled and raped in her home in 2010.

"She was too pure for this cold earth," Kaiya Kapahu's mother during a domestic violence march three years ago.

"My sister was a beautiful woman who lived life to its fullest," said Janel Tupola's sister at her 2008 funeral.

They are the victims of violence, and they are but a few of many in Hawaii.

"Today is about the millions of women, the victims of domestic abuse, and sexual assault who are out there right now looking for a lifeline, looking for support," said President Barack Obama.

On Thursday, Obama reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, continuing and expanding assistance, such as a national hotline, a network of shelters, protection orders carrying across state lines, and adding services to protect immigrants and gays.

"In spite of the victories along the way, we can never be complacent because there is still a lot of suffering," said Nanci Kreidman, director for the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse in Hawaii.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports 1.3 million women will be attacked by a partner, one in four will be domestically abused, and one in six will be raped.

"I was locked in my house for two weeks, beaten and raped multiple times throughout the day," said a girl who used the name DeeDee.

"We're one of the worst in the nation. Sex trafficking is a huge problem for Hawaii," said Kathryn Xian, executive director for the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.

DeeDee said she was only 16 when a family member turned her into a sex slave.

The renewed law also keeps children from being prosecuted for prostitution.

Xian said it is a big plus to the new law, but was troubled by big cuts to the U.S State Department which handles human trafficking.

"We don't know how many services, or which services, and to what degree, but it will be a punch in the face," she said.

"I just want the girls out there to know and everybody else out there to know this needs to be stopped," said DeeDee.

"There is a lot to be done," said Kriedman.

Xian said local advocates are working on a state provision that categorizes child prostitutes as victims, not criminals, but said it's been a tough battle.

There are also three bills that are still alive at the Legislature, including making it a Class-C Felony to solicit a minor and prohibiting those who patronize underage prostitutes from getting out of jail in less than six months.

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