‘I wish I had known’: Maya Millete’s sister shares painful message at domestic violence forum

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SAN DIEGO – Filipino community leaders joined law enforcement Monday for a discussion about the warning signs of domestic violence following the deaths of three Filipino women this year.

The Filipino Resource Center partnered with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for the online forum following the disappearance and alleged murder of Maya Millete, shooting death of Ana Abulaban and Rhona Barcelon’s stabbing death. All three victims were Filipino women and the crimes are alleged to be the result of domestic violence.

“I wish I had known a lot more about domestic violence,” said Maricris Drouaillet, sister of Maya Millete. “I couldn’t imagine her husband of 20 years would hurt her. I was so, so wrong.”

Maya’s husband Larry Millete was arrested in October and charged with murder after a nine-month search for the missing mom of three turned up no sign of her. Larry has denied the charges and Maya’s body is still missing.

Drouaillet spoke at the forum Monday, saying she hopes her sister’s story can be a lesson for others. The discussion was tailored to the Filipino community but organizers said anyone could benefit as many of the red flags of domestic violence are similar across cultures.

“The more that the victim is ready to break away, we call it a triggering event. Whether it is filing for divorce or filing for a restraining order, the more that there can be a potential for that violence to escalate to homicide,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said.

Stephan warned of signs to look out for, including jealous and controlling behavior, and gave advice for how to help potential victims.

“Remain close to notice the red flags, and to assist the victim to escape from that violence,” Stephan said.

Community leaders said domestic violence is a historically underreported crime and that rings even more true for certain cultures.

“As Filipinos we are very private. So I think it’s unreported because we don’t want other people to know that we have issues within our family. We want to take care of it ourselves,” said Lt. Al Ambito with the San Diego Police Department.

Forum leaders urged victims to report domestic violence despite cultural barriers. Law enforcement and advocacy support resources are available in a number of languages throughout San Diego County.

Anyone in need of help can call the district attorney’s domestic violence advocates at 619-531-4041. A national hotline is also available at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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