PERSON OF THE YEAR
Imagine a young girl, learning of the death of her beloved aunt at the hands of an abusive husband. That was the reality of Maisie B. Tenorio, who learned at a young age the devastating truth of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
“My mom’s sister was murdered by her husband. I was very close to her, and she was like a second mom to me. That has impacted me my whole life so I feel very strongly about all the issues—domestic violence, teen dating violence, sexual assault, stalking,” she said.
That loss and the hole that’s been left in her heart have led Tenorio to dedicate her life to advocating against such treatment of women and men across the CNMI in hopes of a generation where women and men no longer fear domestic violence and sexual abuse, and no longer fear judgment for their past.
Today, Tenorio has helped many women, men, and children through her advocacy efforts and in her role as a founding member of the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The coalition, which was founded back in 2005 but was officially incorporated in March 2007, has a mission to promote, nourish, and sustain a collective movement against violence in the CNMI.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, what you know, your educational background, what church you go to, any of these things can happen to anyone,” she said.
The subject of domestic violence is not glamorous nor is it a glitzy advocacy that draws much attention, yet the act of bringing the subject to the forefront of public consciousness, which the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is doing, is like shining the light of the sun on an infection that festers and grows in the dark, and many of the men, women, and children that are caught in its clutches sometimes feel like voiceless victims that are drowning from public apathy.
That’s where the coalition comes in, Tenorio said. The ultimate goal is to provide a safe place for victims to come and ask for help, or even just talk about what their traumatic experience is like and know that they are heard, loved, and supported.
“I think that’s something that fuels us here in the coalition, that desire to create a community where everybody, especially survivors, especially children who are living with trauma and abuse, to feel that they can safely ask for help, and they know that there’s going to be support, love, and compassion regardless of what happened to them,” Tenorio said.
The most rewarding part for Tenorio, as an advocate, is for a survivor to approach her and tell her that the coalition is making a difference.
Tenorio encourages victims and survivors, if they’re ready, to come in and talk about their experiences and, if they need help, the coalition will do anything in their power to provide them with the help that they need.
“Every survivor needs something different. Every survivor has a different definition of justice, of peace, of safety, and we want them to know that whatever it is that they envision, for them, that we are supportive of that and if they are not getting what they need, we are committed to helping,” she said.
Tenorio explained that the coalition is not a direct service provider, but they have helped survivors by either talking to them, listening to them, and helping them figure out what services they need and refer them to the proper agencies if need be.