Samoan Violence against women

Samoan armed police during the Satapuala conflict

In this article about Samoa, I discuss violence, using three stories from two Samoan newspapers as a starting point. Samoans are a violent people across the board. This stems from natural passion which is then justified through cultural norms. The root cause as with all ungodly, anti-social and self-destructive behaviour is pride. It’s a difficult subject for Samoans to face, especially when talked about from outside of Samoa – thus it is defended and then covered up. It is now starting to be talked about. This is good.

First from Talamua in May of this year:

APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 19 MAY 2017: A survey on Family Health & Survey Report 2016 has revealed an alarming increase in the number of women who have experienced violence in the hands of their spouses, partners or family.

The report which is in its first draft form will be launched later in the month, but it stated that 60% of women and girls have been violated either “emotionally, physically or sexually.”

Right. My personal unscientific take is that sexual abuse would be 20%, emotional the full 60% and physical anything up to 50%.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development, Naea Beth Onesemo said the report has highlighted “lots of critical findings.”

The last report in 2000 which was published in 2005 recorded only 40% of women, but 60% is “scary” said Naea.

She pointed out that the numbers in the report shows that “we are not doing well at all.”

“We need to read and then figure out what and why it is happening,” said Naea.

As I mentioned in the introduction the root cause is pride. This is ALWAYS the reason why it ungodliness, anti-social and self-destructive behaviour occurs. Always. This is nothing to do with Samoa per se. It is just the way the world was built. We were brought into a fallen world and we all want to go our own ways. Bible 101 – actually Genesis 3, to be precise.

Naea hopes once the report is finalized, it will be shared through different avenues before starting a discussion on what should be done differently to change the numbers.

“Even in its draft form, the findings in there are very critical and we really need to have a sit down and properly think about why these numbers continue to grow,” she said.

Because pride is not only permitted in Samoa, it is endorsed through tacit coverup, Samoa mo Samoa, violence used to stomp out violence and a people who stubbornly refuse to DO what God asks of us. Then when they do, they only do it for show so that they can be cheered on by the same society that set them up to fail. It is a never-ending cycle of sin. Do-gooders focus on the problem and not the real solution. Real obedience. Real faith.

The Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development Naea Beth Onesemo Tuilaepa said Samoa does not need a study to tell us that things are really terrible, and went on to cite the case of a Saoluafata woman who died before the celebration of Mothers’ day last week.

“I hope this becomes a wake-up call for all of us,” she said.

It hasn’t and  it won’t, for shame is worse than death to the Samoan. We refuse to admit the truth because of shame – fear of ostracism if we do. That’s Samoa!

She believes the key to changing the numbers, “is changing peoples’ mind set on how they perceive things, and the best place to start from is within families.

Yes, agreed.

“Parents should have conversation with their sons and daughters of what to expect once they are married and attitudes towards life.”

No, this is nonsense. No conversation will ever change the hearts of people. It is the Holy Spirit who does that work. Yes, parents have a role in teaching and preaching but social conduct is caught not taught. Out of 100x children “conversing” with their parents we would be lucky to have one or two change their behaviour in the face of social norms. Give the Holy Spirit ten people though who have seen sacrificial love, and I guarantee that half of them will change overnight and the rest will never be the same again. Remember that even Saul got touched at the stoning of Stephen and a hardened Roman Centurion recognised Christ’s divinity on the cross.

Naea said that there is a perception by some men that once married a man can do whatever he likes to a woman, such as joking about it or composing songs to poke fun at a woman.

That’s right Naea. That’s Samoan male arrogance isn’t it? Note: pride?

“Things have to change, but the issue or violence against women is no different from other health issues where a person needs to change his attitude about certain little things,” said Naea.

In the 2016 report, there are recommendations for new approaches and Naea hopes to work together with the village councils, church leaders, community, non-government organizations, families and everyone to make this new approach successful.

Without sacrificial love and the work of the Holy Spirit, it will fail. Check back here in five years Naea, and you’ll see!

The survey report will guide a five year plan that will start with the launching of the report at the end of this month.

Talamua again. A bit of a mouthpiece for the government spin machine, Talamua has another go at this subject:

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.


And Sob Server’s take on this one:

Aside from the increase of domestic violence against women, there is also a critical concern about the abuse of People With Disability (P.W.D).

This is according to the 2016 Samoa Family Safety Study obtained by the Samoa Observer. According to the report, there are different forms of abuse against the most vulnerable members of the family. This constitutes the diverse faces of domestic violence in Samoa.

“The victims are women, children, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and elderly people.”

Evidence shows that gender-based violence against women and children continues to escalate and abuse is an emerging issue of critical concern.”

The report is part of the Samoan government’s effort to reduce violence. Commissioned by Ministry of Women Community and Social Development the study aimed to assess the present state of domestic and gender-based violence in Samoa and the extent of the impact of current interventions.


According to the report “PWDs experience all major types of abuse with most of them suffering physical abuse, motional abuse, as well as a combination of physical and emotional violence.

“Women With Disabilities (WWDs) are more vulnerable to sexual abuse compared to the men.”

I find all sexual sin obnoxious but particularly the vulnerable.

The report says that people with disability indicated that most perpetrators of violence they faced were other people, no family members either in the villages, in church or in other places that they visited. “About 57% of perpetrators are outsiders and not thoroughly known to PWDs.

“Other female and male relatives also either verbally insult or cause bodily harm to them.

“So form of abuse is inflicted by parents who might be angry about something else or think that they are giving PWDs directives to discipline them.”

This is an ugly side of Samoa that violence in the name of discipline is seen as love and care. It’s pervasive.

The report highlights some of the reasons identified by PWDs on why they were abused by both relatives and non-relatives.

“Most of these reasons reflect a lack of understanding and respect on the part of family and non-family members about PWDs.

“The most common reasons for abuse relates to PWDs inability to do chores at home; that they were being misunderstood when saying something; and – for WWDs – refusing to have sex.”

A hundred is a relatively small number by Western standards but that’s a lot in Samoa that has a population under 200k on-island. The findings seem solid to me.


The report indicates the high prevalence of family violence is distressing and it calls for a more aggressive and better coordinated effort to combat it at the individual, family, village and national levels.

“Domestic violence is a multi-dimensional problem constituted by the juxtaposition of gender and other factors such as age, (dis)ability and socio-economic status.”

“Suppressed in this crisscrossing are those who are made powerless because of their inhibiting social identities and characteristics.

Cut the BS and big words please . . . it’s pride. Violent people are “up” themselves and care only for themselves. KISS.

In many cases, for example, girl child victims are twice or three times more disadvantaged than adult victims because of their gender, young age and/or disability combined.

Duh! Intelligence from a typical government report.

“Young women living with their husbands’ families are in a more constraining environment given their status as Nofotane and of being financially dependent on others.

This is a uniquely Samoan problem where social status puts some ahead of others. It hurts and is a form of slavery, again all pride based.

“The effects are a concurrent blow to health, psychological, social and economic well-being. These indicate severe violation of the victims’ rights to personal liberty, and freedom from inhumane treatment guaranteed by the Samoan Constitution.

Such impacts also have enormous economic and opportunity costs not only on the victims but the country as a whole.”

Yup. Just like the Good Book promises when you stray from obedience.

The report indicates, the causes of domestic violence are many and complex. “Evidence highlights a range of factors from the individual and family levels through to institutional structures.

Wrong! There’s only one . . . pride.

“Examples include: perpetrators personal characteristics and relationship problems in the family, the mindset that endorses unequal gender power relations, absence of a sense of moral compass through the church and fa’a-Samoa, and economic pressure associated with uneven development as Samoa becomes increasingly monetized but with fewer employment opportunities.”

Yes, and these all stem from pride. They are factors for sure but they are not the root cause. Focusing on these will simply fudge the issue.

Abuse continues to occur despite existing laws, policies and programmes against it. Indicators of this drift include: a growing number of complaints registered with the Domestic Violence Unit of the Ministry of Police; rising number of victims received by non-government organisations providing services; the almost daily media reporting of domestic violence cases; growing number of cases dealt with by the criminal and family courts; and a predominant public view that violence is worsening.


Which is . . . dead right!

I recently passed comment on OLP’s blogging calling the Prime Minister Tuila’epa’s active involvement in a political assassination. It seems to me entirely plausible that the PM knew about if not actively arranged for this act of violence. In a country where violence is the norm, where from the top dog down violence and violent ways are condoned, it is simply normal that violence occurs across the board.

Is there hope? Yes for sure, but it must come from sacrificial giving and loving. It can never be reduced by an immoral government, any bureaucratic system or those who wield any power over others. It can only come from a heart change – the work of the Holy Spirit in individuals, one by one who turn back to Him, repent and then pay the price to break the cycle.

Samoa, there’s your challenge!


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