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Dear Editor:

Two in three. That’s how many Samoan women experience domestic violence.

The recent stories in Samoa news detail the impact of domestic & sexual violence. We have read the reporting of sexual harassment in government work place, and leadership response, it’s not a “news issue.” 

We have read the suffering of victims at the hands of intimate partners, as well as sexual assault on a ten-year-old by a repeat offender. These accounts have struck a nerve within me. It is difficult to stay silent, and I am reluctant to sit on the side lines. In April we talked about Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), people are encouraged to “Embrace our Voice” to end the violence. 

I have been fortunate to work at the American Samoa Alliance against Domestic & Sexual Violence, aka “the Alliance”.  A non-profit agency, funded through two grants to promote education, awareness in the community about domestic & sexual violence, and help support those member organizations who share our vision/mission of strengthening families.

Often, we ignore the bruise on someone’s face, or the scared co-worker or friend, or family member who we know suffers in silence, because we convince ourselves it will go away, or it’s not that bad, or worse yet we blame the victim for staying in an abusive relationship.

American Samoa cannot combat domestic & sexual violence by continuing to be bystanders, we must become active participants to end violence. 

Domestic & sexual violence have been with us long before the stories highlighted in Samoa News. It has been an issue far too long. How do we combat domestic & sexual violence? 

We listen to those who have been victims and allow them to share their stories. We arm ourselves with knowledge, and have real authentic, respectful communication with the purpose of understanding how domestic & sexual violence is weaved into our community. We educate ourselves about the importance of social justice changes, such as “Embrace your voice”, “#MeToo” to change mindsets.

We engage with the youth who see too clearly what is happening in our families and provide them a voice regarding the future they want to see.  We learn, we develop, we plan, and we implement change.

We learn to say, “Let it start with me.” “Ia amata ia te a’u”

The Alliance will be hosting community sessions for the next few months to provide education and awareness regarding domestic and sexual violence. We will ask the community their thoughts on how to approach these serious issues.

I encourage those who want to learn more about the impact of domestic and sexual violence, to contact the Alliance office at 699-0272, and become part of the change. 

In Community, Concerned Citizen

J. Tofaeono, Interim Executive Director, Alliance