“Let what happened to me be deterrence…” – Frysna Rimoni

The Supreme Court’s decision to impose the longest jail sentence to date for an attempted murder conviction against Peter Tulaga could not be more appropriate.

For a case that has already been described by Justice Tafaomalo Leilani Warren as the “worst case of intimate partner violence” she has encountered, the Court needed to send out a message that it does not condone such offending. The length of the sentence reflects that message.

And with such a prominent member of the agricultural community being dealt the worst possible punishment he could have received, the alarm bells should be ringing for anyone else thinking of committing a similar crime.

But here is the tragedy of it all. Even if Tulaga was jailed for life, it would not change anything as far as the victim in this matter goes.

Indeed, the life of Frysna Rimoni, the woman who was savagely attacked by Tulaga in a furious rage, has been changed forever.

It must be said while we’ve read some pretty disturbing stories from this case since it started in the Supreme Court, nothing prepared us for what was revealed in her Victim Impact Report, delivered by her sister, Seuamuli Sarona Rimoni.

Keep in mind that when Frsyna gave evidence during the trial, the media was prohibited from being in the room and reporting on her evidence. Which means that until Seuamuli delivered the statement in Court last week, most of us had very little knowledge of just how gruesome Frysna’s injuries were.

“I now face the reality of living as a blind person,” Frysna’s statement reads. “I wake up in darkness everyday unable to know the time. I turn on my wrist watch from the New Zealand Blind Foundation to tell me the time.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very tragic story. This is a woman who once had so much going for her, with a high profile job at the Pacific Forum Line (P.F.L.) and was studying towards a Masters in Fraud and Financial Crimes at the Charles Stuart University, Australia. A Council member of the Samoa Institute of Accountants (S.I.A.), she is also the co-founder of the Samoa Women Association of Growers (S.W.A.G.), where she enjoyed working on projects that empower and support women in agriculture.

But all that changed very quickly so that today, Frysna is scarred for life.

“I went to his house after work on 15 January 2019 to help him, given the suicidal messages he sent to me on that day,” she said.

“He shot me instead. He had no regard for my life. To this day, he has shown no remorse.

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“I have lost my sense of smell. The doctors tell me they cannot say for sure if the nerves in my nose can grow back. I am breathing through my mouth. Due to my mouth being open all the time, there is foul odour coming from my mouth which is embarrassing. I have to constantly spray my mouth with medication, because it gets dry.”

Frysna added that her loss of smell has affected her appetite and had lost more than 10 Kgs. A scar on the left side of her face, which she runs her fingers through everyday, is a constant reminder of her near death experience that she endured.

“I often wonder what I look like,” she said. “Will I ever be beautiful again. Just a few weeks ago before I left the hospital, I have had to insert a coil inside my uterus to stop my menstrual cycles.

“It dawned on me that aside from the little things, I cannot manage on my own. I am unable to care for myself, and anyone else. It is unlikely that I will ever experience motherhood. It breaks my heart.”

Chilling stuff, truly heartbreaking.

But Frysna ends it with a message we believe should be shared as widely as possible, to help all women and anyone else who could be going through a similar situation.

Many people would be wondering why and how she survived. Frysna has answered that question herself.

“At my weakest moments, I cry out to the Lord and ask Him why He let me live? I know it was the mere intervention of the Lord, miracles after miracles and by the grace of God that led me to this day, to tell my story,” she said.

“I often ponder what the future holds for me. The future remains unclear. I trust that God has a plan for me since He saved my life. I have permanent physical disabilities that I have to live with for the rest of my life.”

It was then she issued a warning to other “women who are living in silence and not speaking up against domestic violence.”

“Let what happened to me be deterrence for all the men who resort to physical, emotional and psychological violence against women.

“I hope and pray that what has happened to me sends a strong message to all women who are experiencing domestic violence, to act upon the first instance of warning signs that they are in danger.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Folks, there are lessons right across this most unfortunate case. But one that stands out very strongly is that domestic violence and intimate partner violence does not discriminate. Many of us often think that “modern women” with prominent careers and public profiles are immune. That’s not the case.

Nothing could be further from the truth and the tragic story of Frysna is living proof. Let Frysna’s testimony and her incredible story of survival be the catalyst for change in Samoa today.

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