Mikki Buentello grew up in a Hawaiian home in which her mother endured regular beatings from her husband. When Buentello started dating, the cycle continued. One partner after another would beat and verbally abuse her, says the Honolulu Advertiser. “Because I thought it was normal, I just dealt with it,” she said. But Buentello, 31, now wants the cycle to stop, and she tries to tell her five young children that men are not supposed to hit women, that women are to be treated with respect. The message may have a tough time sticking.
Studies show that boys raised in homes in which the fathers regularly abused their spouses are more prone to become abusers themselves later in life, and girls raised in homes in which mothers are abused by the fathers are more apt to become victims. There’s no guarantee one will lead to the other, but the anecdotal evidence is strong enough that many say the key to reducing Hawai’i’s domestic violence problem lies with its youth. If young children and teenagers learn that physical or mental abuse is not part of healthy relationships, there’s a good chance the cycle of abuse can be stopped. Yet that message doesn’t seem to be getting through to enough young people, partly because too few preventive programs are in place, adovcates say.