“WHAT IF THERE WAS NO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?”
Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) has come to an end. Our office, American Samoa Alliance against Domestic & Sexual Violence and our partners work every month to increase awareness while working towards creating healthy families. We gather as individuals and organizations to help raise knowledge of issues and support domestic violence victims and survivors. For the past several months the newspaper has been beset with stories of domestic violence. Someone stated, “I don’t like reading those stories, I wish they wouldn’t share them.” Instead, I pose the following question, “What would American Samoa families look like if there was no domestic violence?”
There would be no more stories of abusers who beat victims with pipes or punch the victim in their face in the presence of their young children. These children would not have post-traumatic stress. Abusers would not state, “they took drugs to become strong and untouchable by the victim as they planned to murder”. We would not read the heinous ways victims were killed by their abusers - strangulation, severe beatings, stab wounds and/or set on fire. There would not be an increased use of victim services if we did not have domestic violence.
Domestic violence excessively affects women as victims. If there were no domestic violence in Samoa, two of every three women in Samoa who have been or are being abused by intimate partner violence would cease to exist. Those same women would not have to report either physical or sexual violence. If there were no domestic violence in American Samoa, women would not be 85% of all domestic violence victims. Victims would not be beaten, stalked, or murdered. There would be no need for domestic violence hotlines, shelters, and emergency room visits. Victims of violence would not carry shame and the secret of abuse, making them stay away from their support systems. We would have healthier families.
We share stories of domestic violence, but victims continue to suffer in silence in a way that takes your breath away. The growth of substance abuse on our island will cause a heightened reporting of domestic and/or family violence in our community. Nearly 80% of domestic violence crimes are related to the use of drugs . The increased usage of drugs can cause irrational, violent or controlling behavior within a relationship. If the abuse continues, the risk of domestic violence increases, as the drug addiction and abuse will worsen over time.
I know that we have a long path before us. Eradicating violence is no easy feat. For it to change the way we view violence in our homes, and families MUST CHANGE. We can do this by breaking the cycle that keeps us silent. Share our stories because we learn from each other. We can make a difference, one person at a time. We can demand for new services in our community that can help to battle substance abuse to lessen violence. We can come together in our homes and learn that abusers wield power and control as weapons of mass destruction for families, and there are ways we can make a difference. We can learn about safety tips that will help us to stay protected from abusers. To learn more follow us on Facebook, call our office for more information, contact DHSS for assistance as victims of violence.
Looking forward to an American Samoa with healthier families. Join us!
Jennifer F. Tofaeono, Executive Director
American Samoa Alliance against Domestic & Sexual Violence