WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray on what the Bureau is doing to protect the Native Hawaiian community from sexual exploitation at a full Judiciary Committee hearing. During the hearing, Senator Hirono highlighted how sexual exploitation disproportionately impacts Native Hawaiian women and children in the state of Hawaii.
“According to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Native Hawaiian women and girls represent 67% to 77% of sex trafficking victims identified in recent studies,” said Senator Hirono during the hearing. “Native Hawaiians also represent 37% of reported child sex trafficking cases.”
Senator Hirono also 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.
“The federal government owes the same trust responsibility to Native Hawaiians as it does to American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said Senator Hirono during the exchange. “Even if [the Violence Against Women Act] doesn’t specifically allow for protection of Hawaiian women and children, there’s nothing that stops the FBI from including Native Hawaiian women and children as part of your charge.”
A full transcript of Senator Hirono’s exchange with FBI Director Wray is below and a link to download video is available here.
Senator Hirono: Let me turn to child sexual exploitation among Native Hawaiians. This kind of exploitation impacts Native Hawaiian children in the state of Hawaii disproportionately, and according to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Native Hawaiian women and girls represent 67% to 77% of sex trafficking victims identified in recent studies. Native Hawaiians also represent 37% of reported child sex trafficking cases and the federal government owes the same trust responsibility to Native Hawaiians as it does to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Bills like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), where Native Hawaiian nonprofit organizations and tribal nonprofit organizations are both eligible for the same grant programs, but the VAWA bill fails to allow Native Hawaiian women and children to qualify for any type of support or innovation. So here’s my question: I hope that the Bureau will begin to include Native Hawaiians in your work to address the missing and murdered Indigenous people crisis, and violence against Indigenous people, because even if VAWA doesn’t specifically allow for protection of Hawaiian women and children, there’s nothing that stops the FBI from including Native Hawaiian women and children as part of your charge. Can you begin to talk about it and include them in your programmatic efforts?
Director Wray: I will say that I think you put your finger on an important issue, and that our Honolulu office has been working very hard to target and aggressively pursue federal charges on known and repeat human trafficking offenders. And what they’re seeing, what they tell me, is that you’re seeing gangs and drug trafficking organizations exploit vulnerable victims, and in particular, the lion’s share—as you say with the statistics that you were citing—the lion’s share of that is on displaced or marginalized sectors, especially Native Hawaiians. And, in fact, I think it was just this past week, our Honolulu office recovered, I think, three minor females who were missing and at risk on the Big Island. And I know they’re very aggressively working that issue.
Senator Hirono is a strong advocate for ensuring the federal government meets the trust responsibility owed to all Native Americans, including American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, and is a longstanding supporter of programs and resources that uplift women and children. In May, she introduced a resolution designating May 5th as National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.