Military faces new questions amid discussion about gender-based violence in Hawaii

Senator Hirono said she heard from military leaders about sexual violence but it hasn't been enough.
Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 5:35 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2023 at 5:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Survivors of human trafficking and community leaders spoke to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono about trauma that has lasted for generations.

It was part of a meeting on Native Hawaiian gender-based violence at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in Iwilei.

As part of that meeting, a new report by the Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls Task Force was discussed.

Part of that report puts a glaring spotlight on the military.

“My experience during that time in my life, there were a large amount of military who would purchase people for sex,” said Kalei Grant, a survivor of human trafficking.

Troubling report shines spotlight on missing, murdered Native Hawaiian women

The report found 38% of men arrested for trying to have a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old online have been active duty military.

“That is why now I work very closely with the Department of Defense to implement training so they are aware of not only the subject matter, but the consequences,” Grant said.

Hirono added: “We need to call attention to this problem. I’d like to have the Governor aware that this is an issue that probably needs pretty high-level attention because it’s been going on for a long time.”

She has spoken with military leaders as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Hawaii News Now asked Hirono if she’s heard directly from the military about the issue.

“Frankly, not enough,” she said.

Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, Department of Defense spokesperson, issued this statement:

“The Department of Defense continues to work diligently on combating human trafficking and provide a voice to trafficking survivors.”

She also said the Combating Trafficking In-Persons office met with the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women and INDOPACOM representatives to discuss prevention and future actions.

Women leaders say the next steps are more research and helping survivors get back on their feet.