HILO, HI (January 24, 2023)—YWCA of Hawaii Island has promoted two employees to leadership positions at its island-wide Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) program. Anthony Mathias is program director, and Lisa LaMorte Williams is a new crisis intervention specialist. The appointments position SASS for growth in the coming year.
While new to SASS, Mathias and Williams are no strangers to YWCA of Hawaii Island; they served as Clinical Specialist and Child Development Specialist, respectively, at YWCA’s Healthy Families program. Mathias joined the organization in 2020. Williams has been part of the YWCA of Hawaii Island ohana for more than 20 years, having joined in 2002 as a teacher for the YWCA Preschool.
As SASS program director, Anthony Mathias will also run the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program and the day-to-day operation of the program that includes advocates, crisis intervention specialists and therapists. He will secure funding, set policy and represent SASS on various state committees working on the issue of sexual assault, including the Hawaii Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, the Hawaii Sexual Assault Response and Training program, the Hawaii Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Big Island Coalition Against Physical and Sexual Assault, and other partner agencies and committees.
He succeeds Lorraine Davis, who will retire as SASS program director/YWCA of Hawaii Island chief operating officer this spring. “We’re very fortunate to be able to implement our succession plan with plenty of time for Anthony to get up to speed,” said Davis, who joined the organization in 2003 and has served in various positions including interim CEO. “As the only 24/7 Rape Crisis hotline and support dedicated to Hawaii Island, it’s important that we have a seamless leadership hand-off.”
“I am beyond humbled to be a part of the outstanding YWCA SASS/SANE program for the Hawaii Island community,” Mathias said. “It’s a great honor to follow in Lorraine’s footsteps; she has been instrumental in bringing awareness to sexual assault and sexual assault resources in our community. I hope continue her legacy, and also look at ways to expand our program.” Mathias holds an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
As crisis intervention specialist, Lisa Williams assists sexual assault victims as they come out of the acute phase and transition into the longer journey of healing and empowerment. She also oversees a team of up to 16 SASS advocates and other crisis intervention specialists, and schedules staff to make sure the 24/7 crisis hotline (808) 935-0677 is available to victims and partner agencies.
Davis said, “Lisa and Anthony are a dynamic team who work incredibly well together and I look forward to seeing them grow the program. They’re joining a team dedicated to helping our most vulnerable citizens create a different ending to an awful story, often emerging even stronger than before the assault. That’s powerful work.”
Two immediate growth initiatives are to recruit more SASS advocates and SANE nurses to serve West Hawaii, and to develop into an agency that supports mental health practicums for students and interns.
About Sexual Assault Support Services
For four decades, YWCA’s Sexual Assault Support Services has been a steadfast source of crisis intervention, care, advocacy and healing for victims and survivors of sexual assault. It is Hawaii County’s only dedicated safety net for all victims of sexual assault regardless of age or gender. SASS even extends it services to others affected, such as victims’ parents or significant others.
The program consists of five elements:
- Crisis Hotline. Staffed live by local, on-island experts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (808) 935-0677. The hotline handles more than 2,000 calls per year.
- Advocates. These champions coordinate care, accompany victims to forensic interviews and forensic exams, investigative interviews with police, and legal proceedings, and handle various other needs a victim or survivor may have.
- Crisis Intervention Specialists. These are seasoned advocates that will stay in contact with the victim and their family and bridge the gap between their first contact until they enter other parts of the program.
- Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs). YWCA trains and manages these highly specialized RNs who collect forensic evidence.
- Therapists. With offices in Kona and Hilo plus ability to serve via telehealth, this team provides acute care as well as long-term counseling.
Sexual Assault Support Services is one of YWCA of Hawaii Island’s three signature programs. The others are the Healthy Families program that empowers families to raise healthy, well-adjusted children, and the YWCA preschool, one of the only nationally accredited, developmental preschools in East Hawaii.
YWCA of Hawaii Island is headquartered at 145 Ululani St. in Hilo. Telephone: (808) 935-7141; on the web at www.ywcahawaiiisland.org.