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Dear Editor,

One mother abused or killed in a domestic violence situation, leaves behind her children and a trail of hurting generations.The following random reported situations highlights family violence in American Samoa.

9/5/2015: A woman sustained massive physical traumatic injuries in the security of her own home. Some family and neighbors may not have witnessed it but neighbors reportedly described the yelling, screaming and scuffling sounds emanating from the home; silence, then the sounds of sirens. Seen and heard were the frantic movements that broke any pretense of secrecy, denial or apathetic indifference as cries for outside help were made..

The condition of the victim is exposed and noted as the professional teams of hospital staff, EMS and police work in frantic sequence to save and determine the cause of the victim’s injuries and subsequent death. 

The cause of death on the certificate told it’s story. Personal and investigation photos and reports from the morgue reveals a different story. The police report is a maze of inconsistencies as stunned family members were routed away by DPS, looking for answers. Neighbors who are no strangers to the verbal battles become mute upon investigation. That was after their stories were released and carried by the 4 winds, crossing village boundaries throughout the island and beyond to distant shores. 

SN- 6/4/19, 6/6/19, 6/7/19: The well publicized and internationally sensationalized  story on Jonathan Fanene and the brutalizing of his spouse and sister in the privacy of their home, is another story on domestic violence. It includes an innocent child’s accounts to assist the batterer with the abusing of his mother. “The court affidavit, supporting the criminal complaint, states that police took photographs of the wife’s injuries”. Fanene has been charged in the district court of American Samoa with eight felonies, including kidnapping, assault, and five misdemeanors. He has been released on $100,000.00 bail. The difference with the 2015 story, is the victim ‘LIVED’ to report their abuse.

SN10/4/19: A woman jumps out of a moving vehicle driven by her drunk and angry husband. The spouse was threatening to beat and kill her. Victim is alive because someone stopped to assist her to the police station.  

April 30, 2016: Several years ago a similar situation occurred, except this woman fell to her death. According to eyewitnesses, it was an angry drunk driver in control of a moving truck when the spouse allegedly fell out of the vehicle. (SN May12, 2016) According to Commissioner of Public Safety Save Liuato Tuitele the couple had an argument when they left a nightclub.”They were the only ones in a vehicle that the husband was driving when … fell out from the moving vehicle at Lepuapua.’’

The very graphic public reports by eyewitness accounts, facebook photos and videos provided to the investigators, all amounted to nothing. Her death is still shrouded in mystery.

According to the investigations of the two separate brutal  fatalities, there were no signs of any wrongdoing or evidence of anything out of the ordinary.

SN 1/30/17: The police initially ruled a fatal hanging case as a suicide and the family proceeded with the funeral. However, new information surfaced afterward. A child, the 9y/o son, allegedly witnessed the assault, which led to the arrest of Mataupu Mamona who was then charged with second degree murder of his wife, assault in the first degree, false reports and two counts of private peace disturbance by the Attorney General’s office.

During the trial, the jury of two men and three women found the spouse guilty of the felony assault and the misdemeanors, but acquitted him on the murder charge. 

Child witnesses are cloaked in shadows, their due process irrelevant and cases defeated in court because of their youth and poor representation. Innocent children are being used to suffocate many cases. They are considered unreliable witnesses and some are used as bargaining chips or held hostage by offending parents. Our youth are vulnerable in the system, tainted by adult lies, manipulations and deceit because of their age and unreliable memories.

Power, mystery, deliberate confusion, secrecy and culpable individuals in crimes of passion perpetuate domestic violence, child & elder abuse , sexual assault and human sex trafficking. 

Mothers are known as children’s sanctuaries in the family. Yet many moms are being brutalized or killed in their own homes. Is there justice for the dead and the survivors?

Our silence is the reason for these women lying in state in their coffins or in their prominently displayed graves. It is our denial that will lead more victims and survivors to their early graves as the world inherits generations of hurting and wounded families. 

Enough of the rhetoric by government, cultural and religious leaders on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. If we don’t believe and stand up against domestic violence, there is NO safe, healthy or happy future for the children of American Samoa.

Ipu Avegalio Lefiti — Victim Advocate