Champion for Change Honoree

CPAF Names Debra Nakatomi

2018 Champion for Change Award Recipient

Each year, CPAF recognizes organizations and individuals who share our mission of building healthier and safer communities by honoring them with our “Champion for Change” award.  This year’s “Champion for Change” award recipient is

Debra Nakatomi

At this year’s CPAF 40th Anniversary gala on September 21, CPAF is pleased to present the Champion for Change award to longtime community leader Debra Nakatomi, for her leadership and support in building healthy and safer communities.

Debra is president of Nakatomi & Associates, a communications firm dedicated to advancing social change, promoting equity and designing initiatives for nonprofit, public and private organizations committed to social good. For more than 25 years, the firm has led campaigns to combat sexual violence and child abuse, promote health and wellness, environmental awareness and sustainable community development. As a lifelong advocate for women and girls, Debra’s clients include organizations committed to expanding philanthropy, promoting health equity and advancing wellness. Learn more in her bio following the interview below.

We asked Debra to provide her thoughts on a few key issues – please read on for the full interview.

What motivates you to support the cause to end domestic and sexual violence, and violence against women and girls?

There are powerful voices coming together to end the culture of violence against women and girls. Now, more than ever, we can see positive change of women being heard and believed.

Sadly, we all know someone who has experienced sexual assault and violence. For me and so many of us, it’s very personal.

Sexual assault and domestic violence occurs in the workplace, at school, at home, often by people we know – these could be significant others, colleagues, bosses, coaches and teachers. Very often, by people we trust. We are all impacted, as mothers, brothers, fathers, sisters and friends.

  • 1 in 4 women will experience sexual assault or domestic violence in their lifetime.
  • 1 out of 2 Asian and Pacific Islander (API) immigrant women, yet, API women are least likely to report abuse.

Why is it important to support this work?

While the efforts to end domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse have existed for decades, never in my memory has there been such a widespread acknowledgment of the prevalence and greater demand for effective reporting, consequences and stronger punishment.

There is great demand for accountability by the systems, institutions and organizations that have turned a blind eye. There is growing awareness about root causes and empathy in the broader community that it is OUR problem.

For API women, especially survivors who have experienced violence in their homes and who may speak little or no English, CPAF has been the place for 40 years where they seek support, services and emergency shelter. We must support the staff and volunteers who provide services for these women and their children.

How does this time of #MeToo make a difference?

Through #MeToo and media, people have a sense of the magnitude of the problem and growing awareness that sexual abuse, harassment and violence is widespread and should not be tolerated.

There is a collective acknowledgment that it really is up to all of us to help stop this, and more importantly, that survivors of domestic and sexual violence shouldn’t suffer in silence. We are challenging the norms and culture that enabled perpetrators and incidents to go unreported and unchecked with no consequences.

How would you encourage others to get involved and engaged in the movement to end violence against women and girls?

I would encourage others to learn to recognize the signs as the first step in ending sexual violence. This is one important way to support survivors, and could help prevent violence before it starts.

  • Be an advocate and educate others at your school, in your workplace, in your family. Talk about how sexual violence impacts all our lives and should not be tolerated.
  • Be a donor and a volunteer with CPAF and support their efforts to educate and build awareness among new generations of young people to take a stand against abuse.
  • Visit CPAF’s website to learn more, and you can also invite a CPAF representative to your local events to speak about building healthy communities and ending violence.

We can all do something. We are all in this together.


BIO – DEBRA NAKATOMI

Debra Nakatomi is president of Nakatomi & Associates, a communications firm dedicated to advancing social change, promoting equity and designing initiatives for nonprofit, public and private organizations committed to social good. For over 25 years, the firm has led campaigns to combat sexual violence and child abuse, promote health and wellness, environmental awareness and sustainable community development.

Debra serves organizations committed to expanding philanthropy, promoting health equity and advancing wellness. She is board chair of The California Wellness Foundation and former board president of the Little Tokyo Service Center. She serves on the advisory councils for Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Kizuna and Peace Over Violence. A lifelong advocate for women and girls, she served 12 years as board member and international commissioner for Girl Scouts of the USA and was former chair of the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation and the Asian Pacific Women’s Leadership Institute.

Debra is co-producer of the Mineta Legacy Project, that includes a TV documentary, An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy and educational curriculum profiling the life and career of Secretary Mineta. She co-produced Stories From Tohoku, a one-hour documentary about survivors of the 2011 Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that aired on PBS in 2015.