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Sen. Mazie Hirono holds roundtable on needs of Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence

mazie hirono
via Senator Mazie K. Hirono

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    Before you read:

    Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) held a roundtable discussion to address and support Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence. 

    Held on Tuesday, the discussion highlighted the challenges and obstacles faced by Native Hawaiian organizations that support survivors of gender-based violence and sex trafficking. 

    “Native Hawaiians, like other Native groups across the country, continue to face disproportionate levels of gender-based violence and sex trafficking,” Hirono explained. 

    Alongside Hirono, Khama Jabola-Carolus — executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on Status of Women (HSCSW) and co-chair of Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls — addressed the military’s involvement in sexual violence. 

    Pinpointing the recent growth of what the Department of Defense has called an “unhealthy military climate” and an increase of service members who have been sexually assaulted, Jabola-Carolus proposed an anti-trafficking campaign in Hawaii modeled after an anti-trafficking campaign in South Korea’s military installations. 

    Joining the conversation, survivor Kalei Grant argued for breaking the “invisible chain” of generational trauma. Grant continued by suggesting a form of generational healing, which would give survivors a “chance to connect to [their] roots” through “traditional healing practices.”

    As an advocate for the Native Hawaiian community, Hirono has worked towards providing further protection and action for survivors of sexual violence. 

    In August, Hirono called for FBI director Christopher Wray to take action against the sexual exploitation of the Native Hawaiian community. She also requested the FBI include Native Hawaiians when addressing missing and murdered Indigenous people. 

    However, the senator’s groundbreaking moment came this past November. 

    Requesting amendments to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Hirono introduced a bill that would allow Native Hawaiian survivors and organizations access to federal funding and resources provided by Congress via VAWA. 

    After Hirono’s bill was passed unanimously by the Senate, President Joe Biden signed the legislation into law in December, which the senator referenced during the roundtable. 

    Now that the president has signed my legislation into law, my hope is that we can better support Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence — our work is far from over.

    More than two-thirds of Hawaii’s sex trafficking victims are Native Hawaiian women and girls, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs reports. 

    The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women released the “Holoi a Nalo Wahine Oiwi” report late last year, detailing the disproportionate consequences sexual violence has on Native Hawaiian women and girls. 

    Other participants of the roundtable discussion included Dr. Sylvia Hussey (Office of Hawaiian Affairs); Lisa Watkins Victorino (Office of Hawaiian Affairs and representative on Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls Task Force); Shawn Kanai‘aupuni (President & CEO, Partners in Development Foundation); Venus Rosete-Medeiros (President and CEO, Hale Kipa); Dr. Sheri Daniels (Ed.D., Papa Ola Lokahi); Sarah Kamakawiwo‘ole (Papa Ola Lokahi) and Ashley Maha‘a (Survivor).

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