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Victor Rivas Rivers

Victor Rivas Rivers

Actor, Athlete & National Spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence

Victor Rivas Rivers

Actor, Athlete & National Spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence


A veteran star of more than two dozen films, Victor Rivers may be best known for such roles as Magic Mike, the prison gang warlord in the cult hit Blood In/Blood Out, Eddie Murphy’s sidekick in The Distinguished Gentleman, and Antonio Banderas’ ill-fated brother in The Mask of Zorro. He can be seen in the award-winning What’s Cooking? – a film that celebrates family, diversity and food – and appears in The Hulk, the Ang Lee directed blockbuster. On television Victor has guest starred on such hit shows as Better Call Saul, Modern FamilyC.S.I. Miami, 24, Miami Vice, Jag, and Star Trek. Victor has a couple of upcoming films: Slipping into Darkness, which won Best Film at the Latino Film Festival and had a run on HBO/Latino in 2020, and a Netflix romantic comedy, Let It Snow.

Born in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, Victor came with his family to this country at the age of two, enduring horrific child abuse and witnessing domestic violence on the level of torture at the hands of his father. At age fifteen, Victor took the then unprecedented legal action against his father, going on to live with a series of foster families. Thanks to the intervention of his community, he turned his life around dramatically – going from hard-core gang-member to senior class President and lettering in four sports. He attended Florida State University on a full four-year football scholarship and was mentored by Coach Bobby Bowden. A team captain and scholar athlete, upon graduation he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins with whom he was out as an offensive lineman for their 1978/79 seasons.

In 1999, with a successful career and family of his own, Victor decided to break his silence about his childhood. Though much has improved over the past thirty years, domestic violence remains the most under-reported crime in America, what is often called "the Quiet Crime." For this reason, Victor has chosen to lend his voice and his story to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) – a social change organization representing statewide coalitions, developing public policy, and spearheading efforts to provide more direct support to programs through information, research, funding, and training.

As National Spokesperson for the NNEDV, Mr. Rivers hopes to raise awareness that domestic violence cannot be treated exclusively as a woman’s issue; rather, he insists, it should be everyone’s issue. His ultimate survival and personal success convey the importance of intervention by others who helped him break the cycle of violence, something Victor hopes more people will do by taking a stand against our greatest yet most curable social disease.

Speaker Videos

Giving Thanks to the Village Who Raised Him

A Private Family Matter

Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

On Domestic Violence

On San Quentin Prison (Spanish Interview)

A Private Family Matter

Speech Topics

A Private Family Matter

Cuban-born Victor Rivas Rivers tells the heartbreaking, harrowing, and ultimately triumphant story of his escape from what he calls the “war zone” of family violence. Much has changed over the years since 12-year-old Rivers, covered in burns, bruises, and welts, sought help from law enforcement but was turned away because it was then seen as a “private family matter.” Today, the good news is that there are now shelters, hotlines, and legislation. The bad news is that family violence continues to be the most underreported crime in America, as it thrives in an atmosphere of silence, shame, and denial. This is much more than a family matter, it is a worldwide epidemic. In this presentation, Rivers educates and inspires those who know little about domestic abuse, as well as those who know the issue well. By sharing his story, Rivers passionately shows audiences how domestic violence can happen anywhere, and how we must all stand together to stop it.

How Are the Children? Why Domestic Violence Is Everyone’s Issues

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 throughout their lives. 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.

I Am the Child That the Village Raised: How Teachers, Coaches & Schools Saved and Transformed My Life

Why does veteran film actor Victor Rivas Rivers speak out against child abuse and the impact that witnessing domestic violence has on children? Because of a special boy he knew. The boy whose first memory was of being thrown from his high chair by his abusive father. The boy was beaten, burned, tied up, locked in closets, starved, and kidnapped. That boy was Rivers himself. But thanks to those he calls “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.” The Cuban-born, best- selling author and activist also helps shine a light on the 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.

MAN UP: How Males of All Ages Offer A New Solution to An Old Problem

To worldwide fans, Victor Rivas Rivers may be best known for his portrayals of bad guys in movies. But in real life, he is one of the good guys — a leading male voice on the issue of ending violence against women and children. So why is a Hollywood “heavy” speaking out to redefine what it means to be a “real man?” Because of the domestic violence that took place in his own home while growing up. He also speaks to address ways boys and men can become more involved in taking a stand against misogyny. Drawing from lessons learned from the sports world, Rivers — an offensive lineman who played for the FSU Seminoles before a brief stint in the NFL— explores what it means to be a male role model on all fields of endeavors. Most boys and men are good men, he believes, but they can do more to “man up” as leaders in the movement to end all violence.

Crossing Borders: Lessons of a Latino Man

Today, Cuban-born film star Victor Rivas — who 30 years ago changed his name to Victor Rivers to avoid being typecast in Hollywood — knows what it means to struggle against misconceptions and stereotypes. In this presentation, Rivers recounts his journey to find his place not only as an actor, but also as an activist in the movement to end domestic violence. This candid presentation looks at new opportunities for redefining what it means to be a “macho” man in today’s world, and what it means to be an immigrant in an increasingly multicultural America. “Crossing Borders” celebrates the power of diversity and Hispanic heritage, while acknowledging new opportunities for Latinos at a time of growing political and economic clout.