Inquiry report breaks ‘veil of silence’ on family violence
Graphic: Schoolgirls at the launch of the national inquiry report say no to violence
A landmark inquiry has found that family violence affects almost all families in Samoa, with very high numbers of people experiencing acute violence.
Family violence takes place behind a veil of silence that allows it to menace people from all walks of life but especially the most vulnerable, according to a landmark report by Samoa's national human rights institution.
The National Inquiry into Family Violence Report found that family violence affects almost all families in Samoa, with very high numbers of people experiencing acute violence in their lifetime.
Almost nine in 10 women consulted during the Inquiry said they had experienced physical or emotional violence at the hands of family members, with six out of 10 experiencing intimate partner violence. One in five is raped.
The repercussions of intimate partner violence, especially rape, are immense. According to the report, 33 percent of women who are raped contemplate suicide, while 13 percent attempt suicide.
"I want you to know that you are not broken, you are not worthless, and you are not to blame."
Survivor of child abuse in a powerful testimony to the National Inquiry
Speaking at the launch on 12 September 2018, Samoa's Prime Minister Susuga Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao called on the nation to "take action to address this issue head on at last".
"It is time and we can do it. Let us not shirk our duty to future generations of Samoa," he said.
The first of 39 recommendations set out in the report is the establishment of a Family Violence Prevention Office within government.
Along with leading a national family violence prevention strategy and communications program, the Office would be responsible for coordinating an inter-agency response to family violence.
The church and the village councils – the two other key institutions in Samoa – should provide support for the government-led strategy.
The report also recommends that police and health services be trained to recognise family violence and develop clear plans when attending to victims and perpetrators.
Further, there is a need to improve data collection, documentation and formal referral systems.
Another key recommendation from the national inquiry is the provision of universally accessible shelters to victims of family violence.
"Cost is not a barrier to enacting the recommendations in this report," the Ombudsman of Samoa, Maiava Iulai Toma, said in the report conclusion.
"They will pay for themselves over time, such is the drain on our economy family violence causes."
The report found that family violence costs Samoa up to seven percent of its gross domestic product every year; that is the equivalent of $1,090 for every person aged 15 years or older.
Now is the time for action. We should not hide in the shadow of the tree but stand in the light of truth. Together, we can end this scourge in our country.
The National Inquiry collected evidence and testimonies at public hearings and through village consultations held in 2017.
"One of the key themes that emerged from these testimonies is that family violence thrives because it is kept behind closed doors, where perpetrators are allowed to continue under no threat of having to face up to their responsibility," the Ombudsman said.
"It is about time that we openly talk about these issues, front up and allow the right thing to be done."
The Ombudsman acknowledged the support and technical assistance provided by the APF, UN Women, UNDP and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
"We thank our partners, without whom the National Inquiry and report would not have been possible," he said.
Copies of the National Inquiry into Family Violence Report are available from the website of Office of the Ombudsman of Samoa: www.ombudsman.gov.ws.
Date: 20 September 2018
- Schoolgirls at the launch of the national inquiry report say no to violence - Office of the Ombudsman of Samoa
- Staff of the Office of the Ombudsman at the launch of the national inquiry report - Office of the Ombudsman of Samoa