A culture of violence and abuse

By The Editorial Board 26 November 2022, 5:00AM

Culture is defined in the dictionary as being the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

As Samoans, we are proud people. We are proud of our culture. We practice it and we promote it. But is violence part of our culture especially violence against women, children and the vulnerable?

If it is, then we need to change this narrative. Statistics provided by the Samoa Victim Support Group paints a picture of our society that we are not proud to discuss openly.

Perhaps that is where the mistake is. We should be able to talk about this as a society, as a family unit and as individuals.

The only way to fix a problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem.

From January to September this year, 143 women have gone to the SVSG seeking help. These are just the figures for the women, there are children as well and then the vulnerable, these are people with disabilities. Surprisingly, a number of men have also come forward as being victims of violence at the hands of their wives and or partners.

Many of us are so fast to like posts on social media or even comment on issues about gender-based violence giving the notion that we do not condone it. Do we really not condone it?

Then why is it happening? As Christians we go to church every Sunday, for some it is not once but twice in one day.

Do we ever ask ourselves, what have we learnt from words that were spoken from the pulpit or we are going to show off our best clothes which we buy just for Sunday.

Even the Bible talks of how the Lord perceives acts of violence. Proverbs 3:31-33 – “Don’t envy violent people or copy their ways. Such wicked people are detestable to the Lord, but he offers his friendship to the godly. The Lord curses the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the upright.”

If you want to see the impact of violence and abuse in our homes for yourself, take a trip down to the SVSG’s Campus of Hope. It is a safe place for victims of violence and abuse who have been shunned by their families and failed by the very people who should be their protectors.

Violence against women also presents major health issues for Samoan women. According to figures by the United Nations, 46 per cent of Samoan women who have ever been in a relationship have experienced one or more kinds of partner abuse.

The most common form is physical abuse (38 per cent), followed by sexual abuse (20 per cent) and emotional abuse (19 per cent). Approximately 30 per cent of women who had been physically abused reported being injured as a result of this abuse.

Of the women who reported physical partner violence, 24 per cent had been punched, kicked or beaten while pregnant. In almost all of these cases, the perpetrator was the child’s father.  Of the women who reported being victims of violence, 78 per cent said they had experienced domestic violence, 11 per cent were victims of sexual violence, and 11 per cent had experienced indecent assault.

Approximately 97 per cent of women who were victims of domestic violence did not report it to the police, and 36 per cent of these women said they failed to report it because they felt it was a private matter between husband and wife, 8 per cent because they felt it was a minor offence and 7 per cent because reporting was incompatible with their love for their husbands. About 96 per cent of the perpetrators were the women’s husbands.

Women who reported abuse were significantly more likely to have children who died (16 per cent compared with 10 per cent) and to experience a miscarriage (15 per cent compared with 8 per cent). They were also more likely to report that their partner was opposed to contraception (15 per cent compared with 5 per cent).

About 70 per cent of women think that men sometimes have a good reason to beat their wives.

The 16 days of activism to End Violence Against Women and Children started on Friday and it will continue with events.

Many offices and government departments will take part in the events. There will be marches and parades.

Let us as Samoans get involved not just at face value where we take part because everyone else is and it is the woke thing to do, but participate because we share the same ideology that violence has no part in our culture and our society.

We should take part because we don’t want our mothers and sisters to be abused, we should take part because we want to protect our children.

People of Samoa, change starts from home and we can change things on a national level if we start talking about such issues at homes and in village meetings.

The problem of gender based violence is not a women-only problem, it is a problem that belongs to all homes, all people, our nation and our culture.

By The Editorial Board 26 November 2022, 5:00AM
Samoa Observer

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