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Village Councils intervention in family violence crucial as percentage of abuses increase


By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 02 AUGUST 2017:  Village councils will soon intervene and decide the fate of those committing violence within any family if Cabinet endorses the recommendations of a Family Safety Study Report 2017 launched last week.

The report focuses on four categories that include giving “Village Councils legal support to intervene appropriately in family violence incidences in the villages.”

The recommendation was based on findings that reveal an “overwhelmingly high preference for Village Councils to be more involved in setting and monitoring bylaws against domestic violence.”

Other recommendations include:

* Strengthening the family unit by embracing Christian and Samoa cultural values. Central in this is a more proactive role of village councils and village church pastors in educating communities about domestic violence as an unacceptable, criminal act destroying families.

* Strengthening the role of the church in promoting family safety. As one of the key influential institutions in the villages, the church is called upon to be more visibly involved in the fight against domestic violence by leading family safety programmes and encouraging participation of all families in these.

* Introduction of a family safety curriculum to primary and secondary schools. Breaking the cycle of domestic violence requires intervention at the school levels so as children and teachers can learn and practice non-violent ways of relating to each other.

Due to the many reports on domestic and gender-based violence in the country, the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development (MWCSD) with assistance from the Australian Government commissioned a Family Safety Study Survey.

According to the survey report, the most vulnerable people in any family violence are “women, children, persons with disabilities and elderly people.”

“The need for relevant strategies to combat domestic violence is crucial to family and community safety,” states the report.

“The focus of the study was to assess the current situation of domestic and gender-based violence in Samoa, including the extent to which existing legislations, programmes and services have impacted the problem.”

The survey also aimed at providing a preliminary cost benefits analysis of the impacts of domestic violence on health, education, employment and economic development in Samoa.

Key Findings Prevalence of spousal abuse and abuse against children

Sixty (60%) percentage of women between the age group of 20 to 49  who were in a relationship experienced some form of spousal abuse  in their lifetime, whilst 46% experienced  abuse in the last 12 months.

Compared to the 2000 survey, the current situation is much worse.

“Of the abused women, 78% experienced emotional abuse making it the most common type of abuse; with 22% experiencing both physical and emotional abuse, and 5% sexual abuse, and others which possibly constitutes sexual and emotional abuse 1% .”

The survey also noted the high rates of violence were “experienced by both boys and girls.”

“Life-time rate experience of violence was 89% for girls and 90% for boys. Prevalence rate for the last 12 months was 69% for girls and 63% for boys.”

Also noted was the high rate of emotional abuses against women which sits at “78%, 43.5% for children; and 93% for elderly women and men.”

“Combination of physical assault and emotional abuse is the second highest stand physical abuse is the least common type of abuse experienced by all three groups.”

“This indicates that while the rates of violence are still high, physical assault might have begun to drop.”

The report also noted the impact of abuse on women’s education.

“The highest level of education reached by the majority of abused women was Secondary School which is 70%.”

“Women in violent relationships are predominantly those who are married; completed secondary school level; lived in households of between 6 and 10 members, with an average household income of between $100 and $500 per week.

Even those living in de facto relationships or separated from their spouses are also experiencing abuse.