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American Program Bureau Speaking to the world for over 50 years

Victor Rivas Rivers

Domestic Violence Activist, Actor & Best-Selling Author
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Biography

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 achieved extraordinary success in numerous arenas. But given his violent upbringing, few of those achievements were ever likely. In fact, if not for individuals in his community who were willing to take a stand on his behalf, Rivers doubts he would be alive today.

At age 12, Rivers visited his local police department to report a lifetime of crime inflicted upon a child - himself - and upon his mother, siblings, and pets. Though the officers were horrified, they could do little to stop Rivers' father. The torture perpetuated behind closed doors, they said, was "a private family matter." Finally, at age 15, Rivers took then-unprecedented legal action against his father and was allowed to go live with a series of foster families - who oversaw his transformation from rage-filled gang member to senior class president.

He chronicles his story of survival in his memoir A Private Family Matter. Many of his "angels," as he calls them, were educators - from his eighth grade teacher who literally fed him when his father instituted a starvation diet at home to his high school coaching staff who refused to let him quit the team and drop out of school, ultimately giving him the confidence to earn a full football scholarship at Florida State University and a stint in the NFL. After being dubbed "The Longest of Long Shots" by the Miami sports media, Rivers pursued another long shot in Hollywood. In one more unlikely turn, Rivers has since attained a global following with roles in over two dozen movies, including The Mask of Zorro, The Hulk, Blood In Blood Out, and The Distinguished Gentleman, as well as on multiple TV series, including LIFE, Law & Order LA, CSI Miami, JAG, and Star Trek.

In A Public Family Matter: Journey of an Accidental Activist - the upcoming sequel to Rivers' memoir - tells the story of being embraced by social justice advocates as one of the few male voices speaking out against domestic violence. Serving as a Verizon Foundation Community Champion and spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Rivers seeks to raise awareness and activism of related forms of abuse, along with ways that individuals and communities can do more to end violence.

A masterful storyteller whose topics are as diverse as his background, Victor Rivas Rivers is deeply passionate about combating stereotypes and cultural prejudice. He shares his strategies for challenging these stereotypes with corporate and college audiences alike. A compelling, inspiring speaker whose hope, humor, and honesty shine through every presentation, he has been called "a big man - in heart and soul."

Topics

How Are the Children?

In this presentation, keynote speaker Victor Rivas Rivers asks the question, "How are the children?" - a phrase derived from a traditional Masai tribal greeting. The message behind this greeting is that if the children are well, then so is the entire community. Rivers uses his personal story of surviving an abusive home to address a host of issues that impact children early and later in their lives. While acknowledging strides made by child advocates in a variety of settings, this presentation raises the stakes for new challenges in a time of budget crises and offers applicable solutions - so that when asked how the children are doing, our society may collectively answer that the children are thriving.

This presentation is especially geared toward child welfare agency workers, law enforcement officials, and juvenile justice conferences.

A Public Family Matter: My Journey as an Accidental Activist

For survivors of abuse and other forms of early trauma, healing is often an ongoing process. Cuban-born Victor Rivas Rivers - a former football star turned Hollywood film actor - thought he had successfully buried or let go of most of his painful past. That was until his mid thirties, when he began talking in his sleep, reliving his victimization in vivid detail. The journey to understand what had happened to him and how others had intervened on his behalf finally ended five years later with the birth of his son - a story chronicled in his best-selling memoir A Private Family Matter. To help other families living in the war zone of abuse and to honor his advocates, Rivers began speaking out on behalf of life-saving programs around the country, thus commencing his journey as an accidental activist. Addressing a range of concerns that fuel violence as a social disease - from the abuse of animals and teen dating violence to cultural barriers and the financial costs of domestic violence - he also shares how the global advocacy village gave him a voice to help create a more peaceful, safer world.

Whose Problem Is It Anyway? Education & Leadership Breaking the Cycle of Violence

What role should educators and our education system play in confronting family violence, child abuse, bullying, teen dating violence, and other forms of violent speech and acts that threaten school safety? In this presentation, speaker Victor Rivas Rivers shares solutions gathered from programs around the country. He provides guidelines for creating courses of study at various educational levels and for fostering leadership among students as well as educators and communities.

Why Sports Matter: Lessons of an Offensive Lineman

When film star, best-selling author, violence prevention activist, and speaker Victor Rivas Rivers says that sports kept him sane during the traumatic years of his early life, he is not exaggerating. Beyond the pathway out of violence that sports provided, he was given mentorship from coaches and brotherhood from his teammates - a chance to feel like a winner and become a leader. Rivers revisits many of the lessons he learned on the gridiron, addressing concerns about athletic programs being cut and about superstar athletes committing violence off the field. Most players, like most men, Rivers believes, are good human beings who live up to a code of conduct for themselves and give back to their communities. His goal in this presentation is to encourage all athletes to become more involved in domestic violence prevention.

An Evening with Victor Rivas Rivers

As a veteran actor of the stage and screen, speaker Victor Rivas Rivers has played a wide variety of characters that have tapped into both his light and dark sides. In this funny, poignant, and dramatic presentation, Rivers tells his transformational story through the lens of his many different roles - and his experiences in the fascinating world of Hollywood.

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