Mayor Michael Victorino turns out to be a victim of sexual assault, breaking decades-long silence
Editor’s Note: This story is about sexual assault, including a first-person account. People triggered by this article or in need of help are encouraged to seek help. The Maui Sexual Assault Center is accessible at 808-873-8624 (24-hour hotline) and Childandfamilyservice.org.
Chances are, you know a victim of sexual assault. Sexual assault and rape, sometimes referred to as a silent epidemic, affects an untold part of society. According to National Resource Center on Sexual Violence, a leading national non-profit organization focused on preventing and responding to sexual violence, rape is the most under-reported crime in the country and 63 percent of sexual assaults go unreported to the police. This culture of silence notwithstanding, studies have shown that one in five women and one in 67 men will be raped in their lifetime, according to the NSVRC, and one in two women and one in five men will experience some other form of sexual violence. than rape. .
April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, is the time to tackle this silent epidemic and the complex societal and cultural issues surrounding sexual assault and violence.
Mayor Michael Victorino issued a proclamation recognizing the month Monday morning to a small group gathered on the Large lawn at University of Hawai’i Maui College. The crowd included college students and staff, members of the public, and social service organizations serving Maui County, particularly with regards to issues of sexual and domestic violence.
The mayor began by recounting his experience as a victim of sexual assault, a story he said he had never shared until then.
“I never told this story, even to my 43-year-old wife,” he said. “It’s a true story. It was a 13-year-old young man, and four guys jumped on him, took off his clothes and played with his soldiers. Thirteen years. And I never told this story because I always kept it inside this person. I never wanted anyone to hear about it. But it’s mine that it was made to – it was mine.
“For years, it stuck with me,” he continued. “I never mentioned it, not even to my priest – nobody. So I understand what you’re talking about, awareness and sexual abuse. It should never happen to anyone… it should never happen. Never. I would like to keep working to say that this will never happen in the future. Remember: respect. And I talk about respect all the time. It’s the ultimate respect when someone says no.
The mayor also took note of the prevailing culture of silence regarding sexual assault, a tide that has slowly turned as awareness of sexual assault and abuse of power has grown in social consciousness.
“It was 50 years ago and back then you had nowhere to go,” said Victorino. “You didn’t want to tell your parents; you didn’t want to tell your friends. Because you can’t handle yourself? was the attitude. So I got strong from that and worked hard and never let myself be discouraged. I close today by saying that the proclamation is what we in Maui County feel and want to see happen. No one should ever be put in this situation.
The culture of silence around issues of sexual assault is something that Dani Riggs saw and worked firsthand in his role as Clinical Director of Child and Family Services“Maui County Programs.
“Across the country, the cultural silence around sexual assault has been with us probably as long as sexual assault,” Riggs told me. “The shame, the self-doubt, the guilt, the fear that no one will believe you – and often when the victims have come forward, people don’t believe them or there is blame on the victim who walks in. the process – all of these things have contributed to a culture of silence that we are actually learning to break through right now. “
The effects of this culture are detrimental to both society and individuals, Riggs said.
Societally, “if we don’t know we have a problem, we don’t tackle the problem. Or we think it’s a lot smaller than it is and we’re not allocating resources in a way that really helps us solve the problem as efficiently as possible. ”
For individuals, he added, “it is a crime that affects someone their entire life. And when we think of sexual assault on children and look at the impact of negative childhood experiences – “ ACEs ” as we call them – there are a number of [effects], from diseases of the automatic immune system to obesity, diabetes and even many physical illnesses. Many of the things that are diagnosed as mental illness could actually be post-traumatic stress disorder.
These effects spill over to communities in terms of health care costs and other means that are difficult to quantify. But there is hope.
“There are probably a lot of victims in Maui right now who don’t know there is a place they can go for help,” Riggs said. “What I would say is seek professional help. I encourage everyone to call our hotline [808-873-8624]… We have a 24 hour hotline, we have crisis intervention services. We have long term therapy for those who want to continue in this direction.
“If you can find the courage to come forward, know that there are people who are ready to listen to you and able to help you, and that it is possible to go from victim to survivor to prosperous… We have a really strong team working in Maui, working together to help victims of sexual assault. “
As I was about to end our conversation, Riggs wanted to add one more comment.
“I mean I really have respect for the mayor – for the courage to say what he said, to come forward.”
The Maui Sexual Assault Center is accessible at 808-873-8624 (24-hour hotline) and Childandfamilyservice.org.