Alcohol trigger, not root of family violence

Alcohol is a “trigger” rather than a cause of family violence, the Salvation Army says, in the wake of this month's fatal attack that shocked the nation. 

The organisation's Team Leader, Sailivao Aukusitino Senio, spoke out on alcohol's contribution to domestic violence following the death of a man and a woman at a gas station at Malifa in a horrific episode of domestic violence.

“There is [... a major] misconception that alcohol is the cause of domestic violence,” he said.

Sailivao said that a total of 90 per cent of crimes committed in Samoa are alcohol and drugs-related.

He added that between August 2018 and February 2020, the Court has referred 430 people for alcohol-related crimes to them for counselling and help:

“Some of the alcohol related incidents include: 31 percent driving under the influence; assault cases are 21 percent; assault with a deadly weapon is 10 per cent.”

The Salvation Army is currently running programmes among various villages to share a message that “community engagement is vital to reducing the harms associated with alcohol and drug use.”

Sailivao said that the reason for these programmes to be pushed within village meetings is to inform villagers to bring family members to their organisation before they get into trouble with the law or involved in unnecessary accidents.

“It is because when one person is affected by alcohol the whole family is affected,” he said. 

“We cannot do this alone. 

We want everyone to help us make a difference and the number of referrals from court keeps increasing.”

The Salvation Army provides a free, confidential service, delivering treatment and support for addiction issues, which includes gambling, alcohol and nicotine.

Alcohol being a trigger instead of the cause of family violence was also highlighted in a 2018 National Public Inquiry into family violence in Samoa conducted by the Ombudsman Samoa.

According to the report it stated that there is a misconception of alcohol as a cause rather than a trigger contributes to a culture of impunity, allowing perpetrators to blame booze rather than their own actions.

It also added that the abuse of alcohol is a trigger for family violence and by addressing alcohol abuse and misuse the prevalence of violence generally in society can be reduced.

The report recommended that the Samoa Law Reform Commision should implement recommendations on alcohol reform to prevent alcohol abuse and ensure the relevant resources required for implementation and monitoring.

“Village fonos to introduce by-laws outlining community based punishments for alcohol abuse cases,” the Commission suggested. 

“Review and monitor impact of alcohol management programmes, assess national need and ensure universal coverage.”

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