We can and must take steps to prevent domestic violence
Last year, just as alumni of my high school class celebrated their 10-year reunion, one of my best friends from that era of life was sentenced to prison for a violent crime. Tragically, that chapter of my friend's life was one that was preceded by a long history of domestic violence and even the suicide of his father.
Having known my friend since he was 13 years old, I learned from growing up beside him that hurt people often go on to hurt other people. As we consider the cruel summer of domestic violence here in Hawaii, many are wondering whether it is possible to stop this ghastly trend or whether these things represent the shape of things to come. It is my firm belief that not only is it possible to stop the trend, but we must make prevention of domestic violence our highest priority in the islands, because that which destroys our families destroys our society.
Studies indicate that children who witness violence at home are much more likely to experience anxiety, depression and violence toward peers, and also are at greater risk for recreating in adulthood the abusive relationships they have seen. Even more disturbing is that a 2005 study of low-income preschoolers in Michigan found that children exposed to violence suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as evidenced by bed wetting or repeated nightmares, and were also at greater risk than peers who were not exposed to violence for having gastrointestinal problems, headaches, influenza, asthma and allergies.
What all of us must remember is that the way we treat one another - especially our family members - can have significant effects on their emotional, intellectual and spiritual development. Human beings simply aren't meant to be hated, rejected and beaten for protracted periods of time. If we want to stop the trend of domestic violence, we have to recognize as a community that love and acceptance are the best preventative treatment. We have to retrain ourselves to be in the habit of always doing good to one another, always speaking words of affection and encouragement to our family members and never resorting to anger or violence as a means to resolve frustration.
I make it a point to always tell my family and friends how valued they are to me, and I always resolve my conflicts with them as quickly and diplomatically as possible. In my romantic relationships, I keep the words of Josiah Holland as my mission statement: "The most precious possession that ever comes to a man in this world is a woman's heart." I make it a point to approach those I care about with a constant continuum of gift-giving, encouragement, adoration, devotion and faithfulness because I believe, like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, that love can exalt talent and overcome all odds.
We can all collectively do our part to prevent domestic violence by being good to one another and remembering each other's needs above our own. If you see your family members going down that path, make it a point to love them - and when necessary, don't be afraid or hesitant to report it or get them professional help.
There have been many issues to debate and fight about this year in Hawaii, but the one issue we must all agree on is that domestic violence needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.
Daniel de Gracia II is an ordained minister, has a master's degree in political science from Southwest Texas State University and is the Democratic president for state House District 40, Precinct 1.