The National Public Inquiry into Family Violence has hit out at a prevailing attitude that women can contribute to acts of sexual assault against them through their behavior and their choice of clothes.
The Chairman of the Inquiry and Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma has also blasted claims that this type of behavior fuels a primitive and urge within men beyond their control.
“The Commission rejects these views entirely and to suggest otherwise is victim blaming of the highest order and must not be tolerated in our society,” Maiava said a statement.
“In addition, the view that men are unable to control their urges is also plainly untrue and only serves to facilitate and excuse this type of behavior.”
Maiava issued the statement two weeks into the Inquiry.
According to him, the issue is among many issues brought to the Commission’s attention during the public hearings.
“The matter of sexual assault against both adults and minors is one of extreme physical and psychological consequences for the victim. It has come to our attention that there is a prevailing attitude (predominantly among men) that women can contribute to acts of this nature through their behavior and their clothing. Furthermore, that this type of behavior fuels a primitive and urge within men that is beyond their control.
“We have heard first-hand the consequences of sexual assault, including rape, of extremely young children. To suggest that they are in some way culpable for what happened not only re-victimises them but also allows abusers to continue their behavior while avoiding accountability.
“The bravery of those who have come forward to give evidence to our Commission is an inspiration in the face of these cowardly acts that harm the very fabric of our society, the fa’a samoa.”
According to Maiava, the Feagaiga – covenant between brother and sister – is a fundamental part of the Samoan culture yet it is being torn apart when “we blame our sisters for the sexual abuse inflicted upon them.
“Let us also be clear that the bible does not condone this type of victim blaming either. Let us not forget “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, …. and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.” Thessalonians 4:3-5
“The assumption that women attract this type of behavior due to what they wear, what they say and how they are perceived to act is false and cannot be tolerated.
“In regards to child abuse this view is even more abhorrent as under no circumstance can under age children consent to sexual activities. Not only do these attitudes inflict further harm on the victim but they lead to future victims being less likely to report these crimes and further increase the impunity under which perpetrators can operate.
“We have been saddened to learn of these prevailing attitudes and will explore this issue in full in our final report, due out next year. In the meantime we urge people to take time to reflect on their attitudes towards this issue, exercise compassion for the many of those who walk among us who have suffered, and resolve to address this, and the broader issue of family violence once and for all.
“The time for talking about this issue is almost done. In our final report to Parliament we will set out a comprehensive plan for how we as a society can deal with all of the issues of family violence brought to our attention over the course of our inquiry.
To achieve it will undoubtedly require the efforts of every single person in this country. In that process I urge each and every one of us to remember the following: “Ou te le’alo I le ata o le la’au.”
The Inquiry continues.