HONOLULU, HI – Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) convened a roundtable discussion with organizations that support Native Hawaiian women and Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence. During the conversation, Senator Hirono heard from participants about the challenges and obstacles they face, and what more needs to be done to better combat this crisis and support survivors of gender-based violence and sex trafficking. The roundtable comes just weeks after President Biden signed into law legislation introduced by Senator Hirono to allow Native Hawaiian survivors of gender-based violence to access critical programs and resources provided by Congress through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
“Native Hawaiians, like other Native groups across the country, continue to face disproportionate levels of gender-based violence and sex trafficking,” said Senator Hirono. “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. I appreciated the opportunity to hear directly from survivors and organizations about the challenges they continue to face and how a continuum of care can be provided to better support survivors moving forward. I look forward to our continued partnership as we work to permanently eradicate this crisis.”
In addition to Senator Hirono, roundtable participants 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; Khara Jabola-Carolus, Executive Director, Hawaii State Commission on Status of Women (HSCSW) and Co-Chair, Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls; Shawn Kanai‘aupuni, President & CEO, Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF); Venus Rosete-Medeiros, President and CEO, Hale Kipa; Dr. Sheri Daniels, Ed.D., Papa Ola Lokahi; Sarah Kamakawiwo‘ole, Papa Ola Lokahi; Kalei Grant, Survivor; and Ashley Maha‘a, Survivor.
According to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, more than two-thirds of sex trafficking victims in Hawaii are Native Hawaiian women and girls, and 37% of reported child sex trafficking cases in Hawaii are Native Hawaiian. Late last year, the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women released the "Holoi a Nalo Wahine Oiwi" report, which further underlines the disproportionate impacts that sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and domestic violence have on Native Hawaiian women and girls.
Senator Hirono has been a vocal advocate for the Native Hawaiian community and efforts to combat violence against Native Hawaiians. In November, she spoke on the Senate floor about the need to amend VAWA to include Native Hawaiian women. In August, she pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray to do more to protect the Native Hawaiian community from sexual exploitation at a full Judiciary Committee hearing and emphasized the need for the FBI to include the Native Hawaiian community in its efforts to address the missing and murdered Indigenous people crisis and violence against Native communities. In May, she joined a resolution designating May 5th as National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Video clips of the roundtable are available here