keplerPediatrician’s commitment to children is unmatched

For 19 years, Dr. William Kepler has done the kinds of examinations that many other doctors would rather not.

As forensic examiner on Maui for the Hawaii Sexual Assault Response Team, the pediatrician has examined about 700 victims of sexual assault, documenting their injuries for treatment and possible prosecution.

"He is one of the more respected, knowledgeable and nicest persons that anyone can ever work with," said Deputy Prosecutor Robert Rivera, a team member since 1993. "He's family oriented and at the same time, he's conscious of our community's needs.

"His commitment to the protection of our children - whether it be as a doctor or as a member of the Hawaii Sexual Assault Response Team - is second to none."

The team develops guidelines to respond to sexual assault victims. Members include police, prosecutors, the attorney general's office, medical professionals, social workers and victim witness counselors.

Kepler began doing the examinations in 1990, as The Children's Justice Center of Maui was being established and pediatricians received training about child abuse and child sexual abuse.

"It seemed to be a need Maui had," said Kepler, who started by examining child victims. "Within about one and a half or two years, I realized there was this tremendous need in the adult population too."

Until a few years ago, when the county began paying to have a doctor on call, Kepler was the only doctor on Maui doing the two-hour examinations. Now Dr. Jocelyn Chang also does exams.

Shelley Waiau assists Kepler, responding to calls that often come at night and on weekends.

"When I tell people what I do, often their face drops and they look down. They say, 'That must be so hard,' " Kepler said. "It isn't, because the victims basically always look at us as helpers."

Most victims are teenagers, although he has examined people from ages 2 to 90.

"We have had girls who were strangled, left for dead," he said. "We have had women who were hit over the head and left unconscious and raped. We have had young children who were sexually assaulted and physically damaged."

Until about a year ago, Kepler said sexual assaults of children were decreasing on Maui. "At least part of that is due to professionals in the field working to stop it," he said.

Now, he worries about the effects of the recession and fewer Child Protective Services investigators.

Kepler, who with his wife, Lu, moved to Maui in 1970 after he completed his residency in Rochester, N.Y., sold his pediatrics practice and retired four years ago.

But he continues his work for sexual assault victims. "It's been gratifying for me," he said.

 


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