Saying NO MORE To Sexual Assault

By Cathy Betts, executive director, Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women

Ten years ago as a young law clerk, I assisted with a criminal felony sexual assault jury trial. A teenager had been assaulted repeatedly by her mother’s boyfriend. During the trial, jurors were asked to write down their questions. One juror wrote: “If you (the victim) were so scared that you would be assaulted at night, why didn’t you climb out the window?”

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Cathy Betts

The 13-year old victim was brave enough to come forward, yet she was asked why she didn’t climb out the window?

The message was clear: You are at fault for the repeated abuse.

I now serve as executive director of Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, which engages in community and legislative advocacy and programming for women and girls in Hawaii.

The commission coordinates policy and advocacy on a wide range of issues related to improving the status of women. Its purpose is to achieve parity for women and girls in education, employment, economics, health care and social, political and legal arenas.

The commission works toward preventing gender-based violence and actively challenging victim blaming. We recognize that true community advocacy is “community work.” This means we always contemplate: How can we use policy to support survivors? How do we reframe the dialogue to ensure the survivor is front and center? And, finally, how do we implement good policies so that newly passed laws don’t just sit dusty on a bookshelf? How do we effectuate positive social change and policy that has true and actual benefit for our community?

That is why the commission joined Hawaii Says NO MORE, a collaboration of individuals and organizations taking action to increase awareness and visibility to end domestic violence and sexual assault in our state. Hawaii Says NO MORE challenges the attitudes and behaviors that lead to this violence, and promotes local values that reflect aloha, respect and our connections through ohana.

We all have to do our part end domestic violence and sexual assault. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month — now is the time for you to go to hawaiisaysnomore.org to learn what you can do.

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