There’s renewed hope that Samoa’s national public inquiry into domestic violence and abuse will find some solutions to the growing problem.
The commission of inquiry has been hearing public testimony nationwide.
Sara Vui-Talitu has more.
Samoa’s Prime Minister made the decision to hold an inquiry at the end of last year.
One of those who has given testimony is Tuiloma Sina Retzlaff, a researcher in the area of domestic violence and a former victim herself.
“Christianity and culture are being used as an excuse and are commonly used to justify the actions of some of the perpetrators. So I speak mostly on intimate partner violence because I am a researcher of it, the issue. So for example of intimate partner violence, in Samoa of all the cases, intimate partner violence makes up half the number of cases, and other types of violence between strangers and children makes up the other 50%.”
One mother who shared her story is a survivor of domestic violence. She was one of many who spoke out about the suffering she’d endured with a man who is the father of her child.
She told her story of violent abuse and how the police did not offer any help.
Author Lani Wendt Young told the public inquiry that addressing sexual abuse in Samoa requires eliminating the shame, secrecy and silence around it.
“I never told anyone about my abuse. Not until I grew up and I met my husband and found in him someone I could trust with the darkest and most shameful parts of myself. But it took another 20 years and lots of heartache and counselling before I was able to talk about it openly before I understood and truly believed in here that the abuse was not my fault and that the sole burden of shame burden and guilt belonged to those who abused and assaulted me.”
The commission of inquiry is chaired by the ombudsman, Maiava Iulai Toma.
He spoke at the opening, calling for the Alii and Faipule or village councils and the churches to work together to end the violence.
“The time has come for the Samoan community our community to face squarely the fact that the Samoan home is not the safe place it is supposed to be, by virtue of the cultural and christian values we claim to cherish. We hope in this national conversation to gain some understanding of what it is that we have been doing or are doing that has landed us in the fix that we are in.”
He says as a Christian society it is important to come up with meaningful strategies in order to combat domestic violence
Our correspondent Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says it’s good that inquiry members hear stories from people who share it in their home environment.
“They collecting stories from victims and survivors of domestic violence. Also they are collecting information from village matais or representatives of villages who offer to give their stories of how villagers are managing domestic violence in their own villages. This week they are starting in Upolu and then they are going to go to Savaii.”
Among those on the inquiry team are former Minister of Women and Social Development, Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua, and Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Studies professor Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn Dunlop.
Others involved include Meleisea Leasiolagi, a professor and director for the Center of Samoan Studies at the National University of Samoa, and Falenaoti Mulitalo Kolotita June Ailuai Oloialii who is a part of the law and justice sector.