I’m a Nuyorican—a Puerto Rican, born and raised in the diaspora in New York City—and call Honolulu, Hawai’i home. I’m deeply concerned and passionate about women’s safety and equity issues. My current role as the Executive Director of the Hawai’i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (HSCADV) gives me the opportunity to work at the systemic level and with others to affect change on a larger scale.
Our mission at HSCADV is to address the social, political, and economic impacts of domestic violence on individuals, families, and communities. We do that by:
- Fostering partnerships and trusting relationships with community partners;
- Increasing awareness of domestic violence;
- Conducting research and analyzing data;
- Developing the capacity of service providers to address the needs of survivors of domestic violence and their families through training and technical assistance, and
- Advocating for social justice and change through public policy.
Although HSCADV doesn’t provide direct domestic violence shelter or advocacy services to survivors, the work we do is in service of survivors. We’re a membership organization, and our members are the domestic violence programs. On a typical day, my team and I are juggling things like calls with survivors who are seeking referrals to programs, providing programs with answers to technical assistance questions, running a stakeholder meeting on firearms retrieval of domestic violence perpetrators, and meeting with lawmakers.
At HSCADV, gun violence prevention is one of our top priority areas, especially with the U.S. Supreme Court preparing to hear oral arguments in United States v. Rahimi. Like the 2022 decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen, the Rahimi ruling would have significant implications for survivors and public safety in Hawai’i. Our state laws currently prohibit firearms and ammunition access to persons subject to a domestic violence protection order or who have been convicted of a domestic violence crime—and we can be sure the gun lobby will challenge those laws if the court sides with Rahimi.
Hawai’i was one of the states directly impacted by the Supreme Court’s opinion of the Bruen case. During the 2023 legislative session, our legislature enacted a substantive amendment to our gun laws in response to the Bruen ruling. The amendment identified locations where firearms were prohibited, but in early drafts of this amendment, domestic violence programs and their sites were not adequately covered. I was able to collaborate with the legal and policy staff of Everytown, Brady United, Giffords, and the Hawai’i State Attorney General to have language included in the amendment that would preserve the enforceability of the statute while also protecting survivors of domestic violence, their children and the program staff who work with them from gun violence.
We need to raise awareness of the risk of lethality and mass violence for people whose intimate partners have access to firearms. Part of the way we can do this work is through support like the funding we received from Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund’s Domestic Violence Grant Program. At our annual conference in June, funding from the grant we received enabled us to invite Judge Sherrill Ellsworth, the retired presiding judge for the Superior Court of California, Riverside, to facilitate a session on the intersection between gun violence and domestic violence, mass violence, and gun violence restraining orders.
I’m extremely proud of my team and member programs in Hawai’i and the work we do to serve survivors—we take that responsibility seriously and are honored to do this work for survivors, their children, and future generations.
Learn more about the Hawai’i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), available 24/7, for confidential assistance from a trained advocate, or text START to 88788 from anywhere in the U.S.
You can also find more resources on legal assistance in English and Spanish at WomensLaw.org.
Angelina Mercado (she/her/hers)
Angelina Mercado is the Executive Director of the Hawai'i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.