Domestic violence threatens families, nation

By The Editorial Board 04 December 2021, 11:49PM

Elisapeta Lefao-Vaiotu didn’t deserve to die. No woman deserves to be treated like this to have their lives cut short. And, yet again, where was the community at that crucial moment on Wednesday morning, with the loss of the 30-year-old mother changing her children's lives forever.

Elisapeta’s aunty Elenoa Betham and her family are devastated at the cruel loss of life of their family member, who only hours earlier was in their company with her children at Vaimoso, before they were dropped off at her partner’s home at Vailoa, where she met her fate at his bloodied hands.

The personal testimony of Elenoa, which harrowingly encapsulated the life and struggles of a young Samoan woman living in a violent relationship, is heartbreaking and raises questions on whether we are doing enough as a society living in the 21st Century to tackle a growing evil.

"We are still trying to come to terms with what happened. The incident was not something anyone would expect to happen and the pain is hard to swallow,” said Elenoa in an interview with the Samoa Observer (Murdered pregnant mother’s family seeking answers).

"No one deserves to go through what our family is going through right now, and no one deserves to die the way our daughter died.”

Elenoa is right – no one deserves to die like this, Elisapeta included. 

But why does it continue to happen and why do Samoan men feel a sense of entitlement to raise their hand against a woman, who is another man’s daughter and is likely to be the mother to your children?

Aren’t we all turning up in church every Sunday to worship the Good Lord and to be reminded by our faifeau (church minister) to love one another as Christ loved us over 2000 years ago?

And the absence of empathy in how we see high incidences of gender-based violence or domestic violence or sexual assault targeting our women and girls should overwhelm the perpetrators with shame. Or has it?

And then there is our culture with the faasamoa at the centre of our universe, setting standards including traditional notions of respect, which have for thousands of years dictated how men and women should coexist in harmony. 

In the old days when a couple fights old women or mothers would yell out, with a commanding voice that can stop traffic. 

“E iai gi lua faiai o lea e faalologo uma mai aiga i le lua le mafaufau?” (Do you have any brains? Families can hear you being mindless).

Then the old woman would threaten to say, “Faakali mai la oulua o le a ou alaku” (you wait! I am coming.) To which she would physically go over to the couple, and if the fight does not stop and once she is seen, the fighting between the couple stops.

In today’s modern Samoa, if an elderly woman yelled out, the neighbours, even the children would yell back: “Leai sau feau. O lea ouke pisa  a a’u i lo’u fagua” (none of your business, I am making noise on my own land).

So where is that respect today for our women and girls or is the community becoming desensitised to the plight of victims of gender-based violence, domestic violence and sexual assault?

Tragically, today, we know the price of looking away when we are confronted with the physical brutality of an act of violence perpetrated by a man against a woman. History points to two outcomes: hospitalisation or death.

So which one is it going to be for your daughter, niece, aunty or mother before we say enough is enough and take action or support action that provides long-term solutions to a silent crisis that continues to chip away family harmony and unity?

This newspaper has over the years published stories on the lives of gender-based violence or domestic violence victims, their horrifying testimonies (some of them submitted in court by eyewitnesses due to the victim being dead) shocking the community.

The court proceedings of the late Sa’u Justina Faasamoa, the former C.E.O. of the Unit Trust of Samoa (U.T.O.S.) in 2019, attempted murder victim Frysna Rimoni in January 2020 and the police inquiry into a woman who died in March 2020 after she was stabbed to death by her partner at a Malifa gas station are cases in point. 

And the role of the Government in tackling this crisis – through programme interventions formulated in partnership with donor partners – is acknowledged and the support by the international community appreciated.

But the journey to a solution should start at home and within our aiga (family) with both mothers and fathers sowing the seeds of love and showering their children with affection, compassion and empathy and calling out violence for what it is as a wrecker of the family unit and in time a nation if action is not taken sooner.

By The Editorial Board 04 December 2021, 11:49PM
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