UH Med Now
Men’s March Against Violence returns in person, Dean Hedges Recognized as ‘Distinguished Citizen of the Year’
For an hour on Thursday afternoon, the usual cacophony of downtown activity was drowned out by the sounds of dozens of state leaders and community members.
Police stopped traffic. People paused to look, take photos or give a nod of approval as a solidified front of men took a bold public stand against violence.
The 28th annual Men’s March Against Violence started outside the steps of Honolulu Hale, and for the first time since the pandemic, groups took to the streets and marched.
The high-trafficked route going down Beretania, Bishop, and King Streets is one Jerris Hedges, M.D., dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, has walked down before in previous marches.
Since his appointment as JABSOM dean 14 years ago, Hedges prioritized training our future doctors to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence and how to intervene properly.
“It’s one of the things I try to share with our medical students each year as we organize and work with other parts of the University of Hawaiʻi,” he said.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million women and men are physically abused by an intimate partner each year. During morning news interviews that previewed the march, Hedges revealed how the issue hits close to home.
“When I grew up, my brother, mother, and I dealt with a father who used violence to address some of the issues he had,” Hedges told KITV News.”He had a tendency toward violence, but he also had a severe health condition that made it difficult for him to do daily activities, and he was also dealing with psychological and physical stressors in his life. It’s not too dissimilar from what many families who have domestic violence issues have to deal with.”
The Men’s March Against Violence Committee noted the “significant difference” Hedges made at an institutional and community level throughout his tenure as dean. Organizers expressed gratitude for the “earnest, important and inspired way Dean Hedges addresses domestic violence and demonstrates his convictions about this problem to the community, colleagues and Hawaii’s health care systems,” earning Hedges the “Distinguished Citizen of the Year” award.
“I’m very pleased to receive this recognition, but I realize I’m receiving it on behalf of the entire University of Hawaiʻi’s efforts and, in particular, that of the medical school’s efforts to contribute to domestic violence awareness,” said Hedges.
The annual march is always a somber one. Keliʻi Beyer from the Domestic Violence Action Center charted all the fatal domestic violence events in our state since the last march, and asked the audience on the Honolulu Hale grounds to never forget the names of the victims. After the sobering reminder that domestic violence is a problem that needs to be addressed, Dean Hedges asked men, in particular, to step up.
“Most perpetrators of domestic violence are men. As men, we need to establish good role models to not only help men who may try to solve their problems through violence but understand that there’s a better way,” said Hedges.
That message is already connecting with future generations. 11-year-old Raiden Barrientos bravely shared his encounters with domestic violence.
“I wanted to join this movement because my mom and tūtū are domestic violence survivors,” he explained.
The Stevenson Middle School student used his story to empower young peers, reminding them never to let a momentary lapse in judgment destroy an entire future.
“I am doing a social media campaign to help get the word out about domestic violence so that the younger generation can help the fight,” he said.
Roughly 100 men participated in the 2022 March Against Violence. As Hedges prepares to retire next year, this was the last he’ll attend as JABSOM dean.
Since he will continue to call Hawaiʻi home, he pledges Thursday’s march won’t be his last.
“Families can stand up and do things to support those who suffer from domestic violence. It’s essential.”