A veteran film star, best-selling author, renowned advocate for violence prevention, and the first Cuban-born football player to land a tryout with the Miami Dolphins, Victor Rivas Rivers has come a long way since being an abused, angry gang member. In fact, given his violent upbringing, few of those achievements were ever likely. If not for individuals in his community who were willing to take a stand on his behalf, Rivers doubts he would be alive today.
In his beautifully crafted memoir, A Private Family Matter: A Memoir, and the upcoming sequel, A Public Family Matter: Journey of An Accidental Activist, Rivers shares his remarkable life story with the world. Now one of the most well-known domestic violence activists, Rivers uses his voice to advocate for the safety all women and children.
On Friday, Mr. Rivers keynote address is titled: How Are the Children? Why Domestic Violence Is Everyone’s Issue. The message behind this Masai tribal greeting is that if the children are well, then so is the entire community. While acknowledging strides made by child advocates in a variety of settings, this presentation is a call to action for all members of the community to seek a much-needed coordinated response to violence—so that when asked how the children are doing, our society may collectively answer that the children are thriving.
On Saturday, Mr. Rivers will present I Am the Child That the Village Raised: How Teachers, Coaches & Schools Saved and Transformed My Life. Victor Rivas Rivers speak out against child abuse because he was abused as a child. He was beaten, burned, tied up, locked in closets, starved, and kidnapped. But thanks to “angels” in his community, he was taken in as an unofficial foster child and given the tools to transform from gang member to senior class president — what he calls his “survival tool box.” Mr. Rivers will highlight the important work of advocates and educators who care for children and teens. He addresses ways that our education system can better confront family violence, child abuse, bullying, and teen dating violence. Rivers connects the power of mentorship to the hopeful potential of breaking the cycle of violence in our world and speaks to protective factors and resiliency of children.