Report highlights abuse of people with disability

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 19 May 2017, 12:00AM

Aside from the increase of domestic violence against women, there is also a critical concern about the abuse of People With Disability (P.W.D). 

This is according to the 2016 Samoa Family Safety Study obtained by the Samoa Observer. According to the report, there are different forms of abuse against the most vulnerable members of the family. This constitutes the diverse faces of domestic violence in Samoa. 

“The victims are women, children, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and elderly people.” 

 Evidence shows that gender-based violence against women and children continues to escalate and abuse is an emerging issue of critical concern.” 

The report is part of the Samoan government’s effort to reduce violence. Commissioned by Ministry of Women Community and Social Development the study aimed to assess the present state of domestic and gender-based violence in Samoa and the extent of the impact of current interventions. 



According to the report “PWDs experience all major types of abuse with most of them suffering physical abuse, motional abuse, as well as a combination of physical and emotional violence. 

“Women With Disabilities (WWDs) are more vulnerable to sexual abuse compared to the men.”

The report says that people with disability indicated that most perpetrators of violence they faced were other people, no family members either in the villages, in church or in other places that they visited. “About 57% of perpetrators are outsiders and not thoroughly known to PWDs. 

“Other female and male relatives also either verbally insult or cause bodily harm to them. 

“So form of abuse is inflicted by parents who might be angry about something else or think that they are giving PWDs directives to discipline them.”

The report highlights some of the reasons identified by PWDs on why they were abused by both relatives and non-relatives. 

“Most of these reasons reflect a lack of understanding and respect on the part of family and non-family members about PWDs.

“The most common reasons for abuse relates to PWDs inability to do chores at home; that they were being misunderstood when saying something; and - for WWDs - refusing to have sex.”

During the survey 100 people with disability were interviewed and the questions focused on their experiences of violence, types of abuse experienced, and the causes and consequences of abuse. Views on legislations and services relating to family violence were also sought. 



The report indicates the high prevalence of family violence is distressing and it calls for a more aggressive and better coordinated effort to combat it at the individual, family, village and national levels. 

“Domestic violence is a multi-dimensional problem constituted by the juxtaposition of gender and other factors such as age, (dis)ability and socio-economic status.”  

“Suppressed in this crisscrossing are those who are made powerless because of their inhibiting social identities and characteristics.

In many cases, for example, girl child victims are twice or three times more disadvantaged than adult victims because of their gender, young age and/or disability combined. 

“Young women living with their husbands’ families are in a more constraining environment given their status as Nofotane and of being financially dependent on others. 

“The effects are a concurrent blow to health, psychological, social and economic well-being. These indicate severe violation of the victims’ rights to personal liberty, and freedom from inhumane treatment guaranteed by the Samoan Constitution.

Such impacts also have enormous economic and opportunity costs not only on the victims but the country as a whole.” 

The report indicates, the causes of domestic violence are many and complex. “Evidence highlights a range of factors from the individual and family levels through to institutional structures.

“Examples include: perpetrators personal characteristics and relationship problems in the family, the mindset that endorses unequal gender power relations, absence of a sense of moral compass through the church and fa’a-Samoa, and economic pressure associated with uneven development as Samoa becomes increasingly monetized but with fewer employment opportunities.” 

Abuse continues to occur despite existing laws, policies and programmes against it. Indicators of this drift include: a growing number of complaints registered with the Domestic Violence Unit of the Ministry of Police; rising number of victims received by non-government organisations providing services; the almost daily media reporting of domestic violence cases; growing number of cases dealt with by the criminal and family courts; and a predominant public view that violence is worsening.

More on this report in later editions.

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 19 May 2017, 12:00AM

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