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Dear Editor,

The decree on social distancing in preventing contact or spread of the COVID-19 virus is the best we can do as we prepare and await for off island assistance. The future of the state of economy and the spread of this virus is taking precedence on our attention. A house full of aiga is a challenge for social distancing.

There is another dark lethal danger that lurks within the protective confines of our homes. Its called sexual abuse, molesting, predatory stalking and sexual violence.

Let us not be so busy and distracted with outside forces that we miss seeing the signs on the faces and behaviors of our children. We forget to be vigilant in keeping simple protective measures in place to protect them.

Predatory eyes are ever wandering for opportunities to molest or sexually violate our children.

Why do I say this? Within 3 months of the year 2020 according to reported court cases by Samoa News, sexual assault cases are soaring.

A reported twenty cases of sexual abuse against our children have passed through the court — 12 sex offenders were found guilty and 7 of them were deported. Meanwhile 8 have pending cases. The victims’ ages range from 11-17y/o. Ten of the victims are 16 y/o.

The ages of the offenders are between 29 - 60. Two are repeaters.

Most alarming is 6 of the perpetrators are uncles, 2 stepfathers and the rest are family friends and neighbors invited in for drinking parties, dinner or to watch tv. What makes it more scary is six of the victims were sexually assaulted while they slept in their homes. Other victims were lured into the perp’s home to help with chores, running errands, and elderly care or babysitting.

I’m baffled at the steady increase of sexual violence allowed against our children. How can our Senators and House of Reps. who represent the fathers of our nation and surrounded with accomplished legal attorneys, not be concerned. It is obvious they need to strengthen our existing laws on sexual violence that are slaps on the wrist. The domestic violence punishment bears more weight.

Every time a charged or convicted sex offender or domestic violence perp is on the loose, remember they are predators and stalkers. They will always find their way back to the home or fold. After all they are ‘uo ma aiga’ (friends and family). The court is only as good as the law. Now the concern is where do the charged or accused go if bailed out?

This current administration has flagrantly showed dismal concern with the cabinet level misbehavior's. The lack of involvement from lawmakers and cabinet members is perpetuating an island wide attitude that subjugates women and children to lives of home and work torture, degradation, and death too by violence or suicide.

The 20 reported offenders are wolves that were allowed access to our children. Stay vigilant within your family. Talk and involve them as you openly discuss and set the ground rules, off limit rooms and behaviors. Sexual abuse can breed in a home of silence, fear and ignorance.

Ipu Avegalio Lefiti, victim advocate Catholic Social Services