Actor Danny Pino starred as Detective Nick Amaro on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for four seasons. We spoke with him about SVU diehards, talking to his children about sexual assault and domestic violence, and Decimos NO MÁS, a new national awareness campaign engaging Latin@s around these issues. The campaign, launch in partnership with Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network and Verizon, is based on the findings of the NO MÁS Study, commissioned by the Avon Foundation for Women.
NO MORE: How did your role as Detective Nick Amaro on Law & Order: SVU shape the way that you think about domestic violence and sexual assault?
Danny Pino: Playing Nick Amaro was an education for me on set and off. Becoming aware of the silence, shame and lingering deep scars that often accompany these violent crimes and the frequency of these crimes within all communities was sobering. The statistics are staggering for both men and women, leaving secrets and broken lives in their wake. I’ve learned these acts rely on the silence and fear of victims and witnesses, alike. Fear is understandable, but silence is collusion. Breaking the cycle takes courage and there are support centers and resources for victims. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting people within this stalwart community of advocates for survivors and I can say without a doubt, they are ready to hear your story, they are ready to help you rebuild, and most importantly, there is hope.
NM: SVU has a huge and devoted fan following. Have fans shared their own stories of survival and abuse with you?
DP: Yes. SVU diehards are a big reason I valued being on L & O. The show inspires loyalty for several reasons, one being its social resonance. It has been personally rewarding to connect fans of the show who’ve unfortunately suffered as victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse to empowering organizations such as the Joyful Heart Foundation.
NM: One of the things we learned from the NO MÁS Study is that nearly two-thirds of all Latin@s (60%) are willing to get involved in efforts to address domestic violence and sexual assault. Why do you think the Latin@ community is so ready to take action?
DP: Any community that values and protects human rights should find the statistics concerning domestic violence and sexual assault appalling and should be ready to take action. Latinos are no different. “No more” and “no mas” are universal.
NM: You have two elementary school-aged children. Have you had conversations with them yet about these issues?
DP: Lack of communication and silence is fertile soil for abuse. My wife and I started to discuss these issues with our boys since before preschool. We reinforce the importance of their control and ultimate say over their own bodies. We encourage them to keep no secrets from us. We also teach them the significance of respecting themselves by respecting women. It’s as vital to guard against our sons being victims, as it is for them not to become abusers.
NM: A central theme of the DECIMOS NO MÁS campaign is that parents are the true heroes in their children’s lives. How do you ensure that your voice is the loudest one when it comes to discussing these issues with your kids?
DP: By being present, being aware and discussing these issues periodically. There is no way to be with our boys 24/7, but knowing they can always safely come to us with a question, a concern, an observation will hopefully drive out the silence these crimes rely on.