SAN DIEGO — Monday marked the kickoff to a forum that will address the rising number of domestic violence incidents in San Diego. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States equaling about 10 million each year.
In San Diego, there have been three domestic violence homicides within the Filipino community in the past several months alone. Joann Fields of the Filipino Resource Center started a forum in San Diego which will contain a series of conversations that she hopes will encourage people to speak up.
"Historically in our Filipino community, we don't talk about issues at home. It's taboo to share domestic violence happenings or going to therapy to address some of these issues," said Fields.
She hopes communication can be the key to change.
"If we can make a positive impact and change and stop the cycle of domestic violence, I feel this forum will accomplish that," said Fields.
Just last week, 28-year-old Filipina Ana Abubalan was murdered in her East Village apartment. Her estranged husband and Tik Tok star Ali Abubalan is accused of her murder. He is pleading not guilty.
Filipina mother of three, Maya Millete, has been missing since January. Her husband, Larry Millete, was recently arrested for her murder.
And in April of this year, Rhona Fantone, a Filipina 30-year-old nurse assistant died after reportedly being stabbed by her husband in Lemon Grove.
"There are three Pinays, all Filipino households where their husbands have took the turn for the worst. They all have resulted in homicide, that’s too many," said Director of Filipino Resource Center, Joann Fields.
"With three Filipino women dying this year, it seems disproportionate in our San Diego community," said San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan.
These three recent tragedies are the reason Fields is partnering with Stephan to introduce the Domestic Violence Forum which was held at the Hall of Justice Monday night.
"Culturally, we do not talk about this issue. It has become taboo. It's not an easy discussion to have, but it is needed. We have two victim advocates speaking at the forum," says Fields.
The D.A.’s Office also says domestic violence cases can be difficult to prosecute because of a lack of evidence or the victim may decide not to press charges.
Maya Millete’s sister, Maricris Drouaillet, spoke during the forum, saying the family had no idea she was being abused or that her life was in danger. Now, she said, Maya’s children will suffer the most.
“Their mom is gone and their dad is in prison. This is the effect of domestic violence and I hope my sister’s story will be a lesson to everyone,” Drouaillet said.
Experts say the more it is talked about the better it will be.
"This is not stopping. It does not stop. It continues to grow and no one is speaking about it and that is a disservice to all the victims all the families - it's a disservice," said Dom Waltower, a violence prevention advocate.
Waltower said domestic violence is happening and people often miss the sometimes subtle signs.
"When people are dating--I've talked to looking for people rushing into relationships. Extremely jealous and possessive, those are signs of a potential domestic violent relationship," said Waltower.
Waltower added that while not linear, offenders usually have experienced some type of damage.
"Hurt people hurt people. That means the offender themselves is damaged and broken that's why they project that type of behavior onto their spouse. It’s not that people are born monsters.”
"One of the main red flags we see is isolation. The abuser tries to isolate her from her own community, using deceptive methods to make the family separate which creates division between the victim and family. They even try to disrupt [the] work environment," said Stephan.
San Diego Police Lt. Al Ambito, board member of the Filipino American Law Enforcement Organization, said California has some of the strictest domestic violence laws in the country and knowing what to do in that situation is imperative to someone’s survival.
“What I tell people is get to a safe place first. Whether you need to leave the house, you need to leave the room, you need to get out of the car. Regardless of where you are, the main key is getting to a safe place so you can make that call,” Ambito said.
The forum was open to the public and free of charge. Community members can also watch online here.
The next domestic violence forum is slated for November 19th at 3:30pm with Southwestern College Leadership both in-person and online.
If you or anyone you know is in need of help or needs to get out of a situation, there are plenty of resources for you.
National Domestic Violence hotline: 1-800-799-7233
WATCH RELATED: Gabby Petito case draws renewed awareness to domestic violence