Domestic violence continues amidst lockdown

By Adel Fruean 06 April 2020, 9:00AM

Domestic violence has continued unabated in the community despite Samoa’s declaration of a state of emergency to mitigate the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Samoa Victim Support Group (S.V.S.G.), which provides refuge for victims of domestic violence, revealed in a statement over the weekend that a mother of four had appealed for assistance after her husband threatened to kill her.

The Group revealed that they worked with the Police to get the woman and her children evacuated from their village to the safety of their campus at Tuanaimato, and have also applied for interim protection orders to protect the mother.

“The priorities at this stage are prevention and safety, however, S.V.S.G. had seen the general uncertainty within our families due to this crisis, perpetuating violence, hence compromising the safety we hope to maintain at this time.”

The village and the identity of the mother were not revealed by the Group. However, it is understood her husband made the threats when away from home.

In another case, a mother of six called the S.V.S.G. and appealed for help as her children had gone without food for a day, after her husband was laid off from work by his employer. 

Most of the mothers call the Group’s Helpline telephone with the S.V.S.G. staff revealing that they have been getting a lot of calls in the last two weeks, including from fathers frustrated with their job loss. 

“The Help Line had never been busier than ever, as per the last two weeks, especially with women experiencing violence in the home while being on lockdown,” the staff said.

“From fathers stressed over the loss of jobs and even from young children crying over the phone for food, and we also have the ones who have everything going well for them. Except that during these quiet times, they now have the courage to speak out, while remaining anonymous. As people are called to stay at home, others are losing their jobs.”

But the difficulties for the families don’t end there, according to the S.V.S.G. as while there are other fathers who retain their jobs, they then have to contend with the challenges of finding transport to go to work. 

“The result saw people being forced to remain in close proximity to their abusers, the laid off breadwinners struggled to feed their families, while the ones who used to commute to work via buses have to fork out more on expensive taxi fares. The uncertainty is perpetuating violence.”

The Group revealed that in the last fortnight, they have handled cases from families fighting over food rationing during the family dinner, to a husband who allegedly tried to run his wife down with the family car.

The S.V.S.G. President, Siliniu Lina Chang, has warned that there is a higher risk of domestic violence and abuse targeting girls and women during the COVID-19 global pandemic lockdown.

“If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that our individual wellbeing is deeply intertwined with the wellbeing of everyone else. If we don’t take care of those who are most vulnerable in our society and those who care for others, no one wins but the virus,” she said in the statement.

The Group also urged members of the public to contact them on their Helpline 800-7874 to report incidents or to seek their assistance. 

“Please know that we here at S.V.S.G. are holding the wellbeing of each of you close in our minds, while bridging the distancing and quarantine through virtual connection. For those experiencing violence, especially those forced to stay in lockdown with their abusers, know that you are not alone.”

By Adel Fruean 06 April 2020, 9:00AM
Samoa Observer

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