Courageous leadership

Effective leadership and courage go hand in hand. Sometimes that courage takes the form of the leader revealing something personal about his or her life that can comfort others who have suffered similar experiences.

Last week, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino revealed that he had been the victim of sexual assault when he was 13 years old. In a speech Monday at the University of Hawaii Maui College, the mayor shared his experience as April is designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Hawaii.

In a video of the event taken by Maui Now, Victorino said to those in attendance:

“I have never told even my wife of 43 years this story. It’s a true story. It was about a young man who was 13 years old, and four guys jumped him and took his clothes off and played with his privates

“Thirteen years old. And I never told this story because I’ve always kept it within, inside of that person. I never wanted anyone to hear about it.

“But it was me that it was done to. It was me.”

We can’t emphasize how much we admire the mayor for stepping forward, to serve as an example that sexual assault survivors can thrive. There are also many more resources available today than there were 53 years ago when Victorino was attacked.

And thanks to leaders like Victorino and U.S. Sen. Martha McSally (who was raped while serving in the military), the shroud of secrecy that used to protect sexual predators has been lifted.

Simply put, society has finally realized that those assaulted did nothing wrong, did nothing to provoke it — and they deserve our support. When leaders like Victorino and McSally step forward and tell their experiences, they lend support to others who have suffered similar trauma.

What the mayor did took courage. What McSally did took courage. By stepping forward, they showed what true leadership looks like.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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