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Paths to Sex Abuse Prevention

Sexual abuse is a tough subject to talk about. So local nonprofit Molokai Child Abuse Prevention Pathways (MCAPP) has been finding creative ways to address the issue and help youth feel more comfortable discussing and reporting it — and it’s experiencing a lot of success.

MCAPP Site Coordinator Kealoha Hooper said staff has been working in the high school for the last several years. When they began, students didn’t want to touch the subject.

“Youth sexual violence isn’t something we usually talk about in this community,” said MCAPP board president Matt Yamashita, at an event held at Kulana `Oiwi last Thursday evening. “It’s not easy to talk about, but we need to… [we’re] making our community a healthier, safer place for everyone.”

MCAPP, which previously operated under the Consuelo Foundation but was recently established as a stand-alone nonprofit, has found that on Molokai, sexual abuse is not only a taboo subject, but is often a generational occurrence.

“[After education in the schools] we started seeing a lot more children getting treatment,” said board member and life coach Lailani Apodaca. “And it didn’t end there. It continued in that now the child’s [relatives are] coming in to get treatment because they themselves had suffered asa child and only now are coming to speak about it now that their child had this come to light in their life.”

She said in some cases, the children’s grandmothers would even come in, bringing to light deep and previously un-talked-about abuse over generations.

“Our community deserves to pay attention to sexual violence,” said board vice president Ehulani Hope Kane. “I applaud the bravery of this… to take secrecy away from the topic and approach it with a lot of heart, a lot of commitment.”

Hooper said the organization works in every school on Molokai to “build a cultural mindset of protecting our children and families against sexual violence.” In the elementary schools, education programs last a day, focusing on personal boundaries and “good touch, bad touch.”

In the high school, education is more comprehensive, with a six-session curriculum.

“With MCAPP coming in, [it creates] the opportunity for dialogue, conversation, to be able to discuss amongst each other, and know where to go,” said MHS Principal Stan Hao in a film MCAPP created about its work. “If this work stops, it’s going to be a detriment to our Molokai community.”

Mike McCutcheon, an officer with the Maui Police Department who works at the high school, said he’s seen changes since MCAPP began education.

“They teach them about how your body is sacred and how it’s OK to speak up, and I think them being in the schools and the work they do in the community has allowed me to to have a successful prosecution rate,” he said in the film. “The reason being is that these individuals come forward… [Students] learn the reporting process… and they’re all speaking up, and this is only through education, through MCAPP, which allows them to understand how the process works.”

MCAPP prevention coordinator Andrea “Titi” Hernandez said starting in 2012, they wanted to incorporate kupuna into the education program to bridge the gap between the wisdom of the past and today’s youth.

“Our kupuna, of course, was our first group that we wanted to talk story with…. Our kupuna is the foundation of who we are,” said Hernandez. We started off by taking them into the school, and that didn’t work out very well because high school kids no like listen…The kids don’t recognize the values.”

Now, MCAPP has taken a different approach to sharing that message. They created a film called Molokai Kupuna Legacy, filmed by Akaku’s Daniel Emhof with sponsorship from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Conseulo Founcation. The 30-minute film features nine Molokai kupuna.

“The idea behind the Kupuna Legacy was for our kupuna to just talk story,” said Hernandez. “[They] share about when they grew up and how it was back then, the values that they learned and what is missing today. So it’s a very important message our kupuna give.”

The film had its first public showing last Thursday evening, at an event featuring dinner, a discussion of MCAPP’s work and two shorter films, including a PSA created by Molokai Middle School students about sexual abuse prevention.

Though Emhof said the film is not yet available to the public online, DVDs are available for sale.

“It’s just exciting to see an organization that works ahead of the problems, before problems occur in our community, we empower our youth so we don’t get to that point where we’re doing treatment,” said board member and UH Maui College, Molokai coordinator Kelly Dudoit. “Instead, we’re trying to stay ahead and do this prevention work.”

To learn more, visit Molokaicapp.org or call MCAPP at 808-660-2619.

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