Bravo: Victor Rivers!

A Private Family Matter by Victor Rivas Rivers is by far my favorite survivor memoir.  He was in Everett, Washington on Thursday to be the keynote speaker at the Hope Within fundraising lunch for Domestic Violence Services (DVS) of Snohomish County.  I was thrilled to finally meet Mr. Rivers, who is the national spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

Sonya Kraski and Victor Rivers

It takes a village.
– Victor Rivers

Sonya Kraski is our County Clerk and the President of DVS’ Board of Directors.  I was humbled by her empathy and generosity as she listened to my story after the event.  Bless you and thank you!  Prior to being elected our County Clerk, Ms. Kraski managed the domestic violence section of the Clerk’s office.  She’s an integral member of our local village of angels and warriors who protect women and children from abuse.

Angels and warriors from the University of Washington’s Bothell Campus

All I wanted from my father was love.
– Victor Rivers

Mr. Rivers spoke passionately about his angels and champions ~ the enlightened witnesses who protected, sheltered, guided, nurtured, and loved him unconditionally after he ran away from home to escape his father’s abuse.  They kept him from falling through the proverbial cracks in the system and instilled in him the affirming sense that he mattered.  His message for the day was that it takes a village ~ a coordinated community response and preventive safety plans ~ to prevent domestic violence and child abuse as well as to help survivors recover and thrive.

I was blessed to be seated at a table of angels who work at the University of Washington’s Bothell campus:  Melissa Arias, Victoria Sprang, Concetta Leggio, Keshia Caldart, Kara Adams, Kyra Laughlin, Rosemary Simmons, and Leah Henley.

Memorial tree for victims of domestic violence

Sadly, we all came home to the news that David Sandoval-Hilarios, a 14-year-old boy and dedicated volunteer, had been shot and killed by a 13-year-old run away boy who had fallen through the cracks and gotten a gun from a 12-year old boy.  It was the first time the boy had fired a gun.  This could have been Mr. Rivers’ story.  He too was involved in gangs before angels intervened.

The most moving part of the program was the memorial to people who died last year as the result of domestic violence.  DVS asked each table to bring the heart-shaped ornaments which graced our tables to add them to the memorial tree as the names were read.  I was astonished by how many of these homicides were linked to dating violence and by how many of the victims were new boyfriends, neighbors, and a police officer.

Rivers Family (Miriam “Mim” Eichler, Elias “Eli” Kennedy Rivers, and Victor) with Pres. Clinton

My most important role is father of Eli.
– Victor Rivers

Mr. Rivers’ resume is impressive.  He’s distinguished himself in a number of roles:  activist, actor, author, NFL player, husband, and father.  He stridently believes that men need to do more to prevent violence against women and children.

My favorite story was about his visit to the Oval Office to meet with Pres. Bill Clinton.  When the president asked Eli what he wanted, Eli astonished everyone by asking Pres. Clinton to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act!  Mr. Rivers proudly reported that Eli recently graduated from Harvard University.

Vicci Hilty (Executive Director of DVS), Victor Rivers, and David Espinosa-Hall (news anchor, KING5/NBC)

I teach peace.
– Victor Rivers

The Hope Within luncheon was an amazing event.  The master of ceremonies was David Espinosa-Hall, a news anchor at Seattle’s NBC affiliate.  He was fantastic!  His baritone voice is so mesmerizing and lyrical that I’m confident he could win The Voice by simply reading song lyrics.  I could listen to him all night long.  He and Mr. Rivers were a phenomenal duo!

Victor Rivers and Anne Caroline Drake

Words do matter.
Words hurt and they matter.
– Victor Rivers

Vicci Hilty, the Executive Director of DVS, called on everyone to become love warriors.  It was a beautiful and inspiring message which I hope all of you will embrace.  Love wins.


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