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Dear Editor:
Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching. It’s a day filled with romance, affection and passion for many couples, but for others it can cause anxiety, fear and violence.
The American Samoa Alliance against Domestic & Sexual Violence, and its partners, continue to provide awareness regarding domestic and sexual violence. Unfortunately, violence continues in many relationships and the impact on the community is well documented. In a statement dated June 11, 2019 Congresswoman Aumua Amata said, “Domestic violence goes against the Samoan Way. Fa’a Samoa conveys honor and dignity, never shame.”
Yet stories of domestic and sexual violence are reported on a weekly basis.  On February 10, 2020 Samoa News headlines, “Another Domestic Abuse Case—and as usual—alcohol involved.” Like other stories the victim informed prosecutors that she wanted her husband to return home.  Same day headline, “Alleged Faleniu rapist, 69, says all he did was play around with the girl—while naked.”  The perpetrator states, “the devil took over his thoughts and tempted him to do something bad to her.”
Domestic violence and sexual assault are a brutal crime, that can be prevented when everyone takes responsibility and becomes part of the solution. It’s not an easy task. People reading this letter may feel it’s not their business, or they do not know what to do to help. Perhaps they fear retaliation. If we were to focus on the victim, and how they felt when experiencing violence, this can motivate change.

There is no doubt that we can reverse the statistics of domestic and sexual violence if we each make a personal commitment to get involved. When you're involved you will learn domestic and sexual violence are complicated matters, and sometimes victims return to their perpetrators. You will learn that blaming victims for violence takes the responsibility away from the perpetrator. You will learn healthy relationships, and healthy communications can teach our youth about consent. We encourage those who may be looking for help to contact Department of Human Social Services, Tafuna Health Clinic, Department of Public Safety and/or LBJ Tropical Medical Center. American Samoa Legal Aid helps victims who want a Court Protection Order. These organizations offer services to ensure safety and wellness for our victims.
This year on Valentine’s Day, let us remember that hands are for holding and love shouldn’t hurt. If you want to learn more about how to eliminate Domestic Violence, & Sexual Assault, please contact the Alliance at 699-0272.
Jennifer F. Tofaeono,
Executive Director
American Samoa Alliance against Domestic & Sexual Violence