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Dear Editor,


“Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women… Everyday in the U.S. more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.”


I read with much disgust the comments of Mr. Pa’u Roy Ausage when he spoke of his initiative to make women look good in order to avoid being beaten by their partners. While I am bothered by the fact that his statements regarding domestic violence are completely unsupported, I am bothered even more by the way Mr. Ausage views domestic violence and its victims. His statements hint at victim shaming and also serve to enable the assailants by justifying their cowardly acts.


And oh, by the way, you can google “victim shaming”, Mr. Ausage, it’s real.


Every October, we celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness. We honor the lives of its victims, their bravery in being able to speak out and avenge to do right by them. We DO NOT tell victims that the cowardly acts of their assailants are the result of the victim’s “let[ting] themselves go.” We DO NOT tell victims that the way to fight domestic violence is to put your hair up in a French twist, dab some lipstick on and make yourselves presentable for your spouses and/or partners. We DO NOT tell the victims that their husband’s wandering eye is because the victim “neglected” their outward appearance.


We DO NOT blame the victim. I repeat, we DO NOT blame the victim.


To suggest that a lesson in hairstyling will combat domestic violence is demeaning to not only the victims of domestic violence but also to those who serve as advocates for the victims. The suggestion that this course will help a woman to keep her man in the home and also from hitting her downplays the seriousness of domestic violence.


You cannot simply wash away domestic violence with shampoo and conditioner. And while I’m at it of how ridiculous this suggestion is, why does your one vague attempt at combating domestic violence target the victims as being at fault? Why not target the aggressors and teach them how to value and respect their women?


One of the main reasons that victims of sex crimes and domestic violence do not come forward easily is the fear of being blamed. The fear that they ‘deserved what they got’ is justification for the crimes committed against them.


So thank you Mr. Ausage, your statements have just forced victims back into hiding. Because what woman, after enduring countless beatings from her partner, will want to come forward when the response she will receive is, “Why didn’t you make yourself look prettier?”


Mr. Ausage, I suggest that rather than tell victims that looking like a beauty queen will save the day, the organization you represent should look at providing resources for counseling, rehabilitation and legal access to better serve the victims of domestic violence and their children.


“Men who, as children, witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives.”   


These women need help. They don’t need to be judged or further victimized by your misogynistic views of domestic violence.


In Solidarity,


Renee Leotele Togafau




(Editor’s Note: Samoa News has published alongside Togafau’s Letter to the Editor a LTE from Sala Fuchs, an Administrative Support Specialist of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, who offers another perspective of Mr. Ausage’s personal survey. ra)