Bad habits are sure hard to break. And when it comes to the ugly issue of domestic violence, while much has been said, written and done in an effort to eradicate it completely, the truth is that we have a long, long way to go.
We say this because from what we see, the mental, physical and psychological abuse inflicted by men on women of this nation is not abating at all.
In fact the latest statistics are extremely disturbing.
According to the ‘Family Safety Strategy’ Survey, incidents of domestic violence where women are physically, emotionally and sexually abused have increased by 20 per cent.
When the last survey in 2000 was conducted, the results showed that 40 per cent of women were violated emotionally, physically and sexually. This year that has increased to 60 per cent.
The deteriorating statistics worries the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa, who said this “should come as a wake up call to all of us.”
Well she is correct of course.
But it shouldn’t be just a wake up call; it should be a call for action, a call for everyone to play their role to end this once and for all.
Of course it’s easier said than done.
Looking at the amount of resources and attention that has been given to address domestic violence over the past few years, you’d think we’d make a dent on the problem by now.
We obviously haven’t, if the latest statistics are anything to judge by. While we might have made some progress in some areas – especially in terms of initiating public discussion and raising awareness about the issue - we are a long way from where we want to be in terms of translating those awareness campaigns into fruitful outcomes.
As much as we don’t like to say it, we’ve always known that shifting mindsets and changing ancient attitudes was always going to be tough.
After all, we live in a country where the “mentality remains that men are ‘pule’ (owners) of the family” is alive and well. This has already been identified by Fuimapoao, who said this has to change.
“They held that belief and they will grow up with that understanding,” Fuimapoao said referring to men. “Even the country wide survey that came through, a lot of men and women, have the belief that a man is justified to discipline his wife including beating her in some way or manner for at least one reason.”
Astonishing, isn’t it?
Back to the C.E.O, she is convinced that if this mentality remains, the problem will continue. Mind you, such attitudes are not confined to domestic violence. You can take any issue and you will find it’s the same challenge.
“All of us know that you actually need to eat less and exercise more to live healthy, so how many of us actually do that? That’s how hard it is to get this across,” Fuimapoao said. “It’s not a matter of government coming along and preaching to people... that is easy but to change the mindset as a father, young man, chief, and a woman. That is the hard part. And it starts within families... this is where you are nurtured how to behave, how to live life.
“This is where we teach our children the importance of respecting one another. As our sons get ready to have their families, they should be directed on how they carry out their relationship with their wives.
“You being the head of the household does not mean that you have the right to beat someone else’s daughter or sister. We are supposed to be a Christian nation, and we’re supposed to live by what the Bible teaches.”
Now let’s pause here for a minute. Fuimapoao has hit the nail on its head.
You see, God’s formula to a happy family is quite simple. The scriptures tell us that wives are to “submit” to their husbands. But it doesn’t stop there.
The same text tells us that man or husbands ought to “love his wife” like Jesus Christ loved the church.
And how did Jesus Christ love the church? Well he gave his life for the church.
That was the ultimate example of love and sacrifice. It is an example that men ought to follow.
Now where in there does it say that men and husbands have the authority to abuse their wives?
Where in there does it say husbands can act stupidly and do whatever they want?
Where in there does it say husbands don’t have to consult their wives in relation to decisions within families?
Where in there does it say that when a man is confronted about an extra marital affair they can turn around and beat their wife?
Where in there does it say a man can get drunk off his face, go home and abuse his wife and children?
Absolutely nothing. Zilch.
What that then tells us is that this notion that domestic violence is encouraged by Biblical scripture is absolutely wrong. The fact is we’ve been doing it wrong for a very, very long time.
Yes we’ve claimed to be following a model set out in the Bible when the simple truth is that we’ve been doing everything but. We’ve only been paying lip service to what the scriptures are telling us to do. In other words, men who claim to be Christians and beat their wives are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.
Getting back to Fuimapoao’s point about the importance of good behaviour starting in families, let’s go back to the very basics.
In the Bible, men are asked to love their wives.
Love is an action word. And in the Biblical definition of love, it contains all the ingredients which can solve most of our problems today.
And how does the Bible define love? What many of us refer to as the “love chapter” in the Bible is quite clear.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Perhaps this is what we should be teaching our young boys. We need to get this into their heads when it comes to relationships. We need every man to be walking around with this in their head as their memory verse.
The problem in this country today is that we’ve been paying lip service to so many things for too long. This is why these ugly behaviours have become entrenched in all our culture and society.
We put on masks to hide the fact that we are hypocritical in a number of ways – including being untruthful to the vows we’ve made to our wives and God.
That’s what we think anyway.
What about you?
Have a great Friday Samoa, God bless!