This letter features reporting from “Uniform Femicides: System Errors” by Karen Naundorf and Sarah Pabst, a Pulitzer Center reporting project
Dear Representative Kyle Yamashita,
Aloha! My name is Kaitlin Kitagawa and I am a junior at King Kekaulike High School. I would like to talk to you about the issue of gender-based violence, specifically towards women. Recently, I read the article, “Uniform Femicides: System Errors” by Karen Naundorf and Sarah Pabst on the Pulitzer Center website. This article addressed the current problem of femicide—the murder of a woman or girl based on her gender—in Argentina, and explained the shortcomings of the government’s legislative and judicial systems in preventing this crime.
In late 2021, Naundorf and Pabst visited families of women who were victims of domestic violence and femicide, and learned how laws and institutions in the country failed to protect the victims. One family remembered how their 18-year-old daughter, Úrsula, was attacked by her ex-boyfriend, Matías Martínez, a policeman. According to Revista Anfibia, Matías should have already been in prison for abuse of a female minor when he brutally murdered Ursula. As this story spread, people scrutinized Argentina’s institutions and its response to femicide. The journalists reported that Ursula’s parents questioned, “Why were protective measures not ordered immediately, given that there were several complaints? Why was the ex-boyfriend not in preventive custody…?”
Unfortunately, femicide is also present in Hawaii, and its prevalence in the form of “intimate femicide,” also known as domestic violence, increased since the beginning of the pandemic. According to Hawaii’s Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC), hotline calls jumped by 188% from February of 2020 to 2021. In addition, DVAC reported that more than 850 of its contacts were with Native Hawaiian clients. Although domestic violence is not bound by ethnicity, culture, or economic status, Native Hawaiian adults were found to have “greater rates of intimate partner violence, both physical and sexual” (Ka Wai Ola News), indicating the urgent need to focus efforts on this population.
I fear that gender-based violence against women will continue to increase in Hawaii if laws to ensure adequate funding for and access to domestic violence resources are not passed. I have researched possible solutions to address this issue, and ask you to consider the following solutions:
- Ensure domestic violence programs and shelters receive sufficient funding and are deemed essential businesses during the pandemic and any future crises;
- Improve access to comprehensive paid family and medical leave; paid sick leave; child care; and unemployment insurance if a survivor loses a job or needs to leave a job for an extended period; and
- Prioritize funding replenishment for local Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) service providers, especially those that demonstrate culturally sensitive programs.
Please consider supporting these solutions to end intimate femicide so that Hawaii can be a paradise where women live safely and thrive. Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter.
Kaitlin Kitagawa is a junior at King Kekaulike High School on the island of Maui, Hawaii. She has a passion for math and science, and is an active member of her school’s STEM, National Honor Society, and Tri-M honor society clubs. Kaitlin’s hobbies include playing the trumpet and piano as a member of her school jazz, pep, and concert bands. She is also an active member of the Lucky Clovers 4-H club. Her personal motto is inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”