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Sex crime cases on the rise says Deputy AG

reporters@samoanews.com

There is a “massive increase” in sex crime cases in 2011 compared to past years, a fact revealed during a recent interview with Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop-Folau, when Samoa News asked her for comments on what seems to be rise in such cases in the territory.

Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop-Folau is the lead prosecutor for numerous criminal cases and was appointed to be the Deputy Attorney General in July 2011.

In 2010— for sexual crimes alone—more than 300 cases arrived at the Attorney General’s office; “however in 2011 it’s more than doubled, and that’s a massive increase compared to the past”, said Jessop-Folau, adding that data for last year is currently being compiled and should be available next month.

The Deputy Attorney General said in the Samoa News interview that a majority of the cases on the rise are rape and sexual assault and the victims are mostly minor girls, 16 years of age and under.

“Rape cases not only consist of forcible compulsion, but there is also statutory rape, where adult males are having sexual intercourse with younger females,” she explained. “Perpetrators usually prey on young girls— age 16 and under— because male adults know these girls are easy targets, easily seduced and some girls are not aware that it’s inappropriate to have intimate relationship with male adults.”

She added that sexual assault cases, where men touch women in a sexual manner or men touch women inappropriately, are on the rise as well.

Jessop-Folau explained that a lot of these sexual cases are coming to light because families are reporting these matters to authorities. She also pointed out that when a teenager is pregnant and is at the hospital for a checkup, the hospital files a report with police, if the teenager is under a certain age — the report is mandatory.

Jessop-Folau commended family members who now report sexual incidents to police, in comparison with the past.

“Family members are now reporting sexual incidents within families to police compared to past years, where this issue was a taboo situation.” She added that “it’s great” they are doing so. “ Anyone and everyone should continue to report any type of crime to police, because if you don’t —who will?” she asked.

Jessop-Folau said that, as a prosecutor, her cases tell her there’s a lack of communication between parents and their children when it comes to sex education.

Speaking as one who must prosecute these cases she said, “Parents in general should speak to their children about sex education, it’s not taught within our education system— and as a parent it’s our job to talk to our children.”

She continued, “Part of our culture makes it clearly inappropriate for parents to discuss sex education with the children because it’s a taboo issue. But if we don’t talk to them, our children are going to hear it from their friends— and the perpetrators.”

“Even the churches discourage the discussion of sex education and yet our churches and culture advocate abstinence...unfortunately our minors are having sex and that’s what my cases are telling me”, said Jessop-Folau.

The Deputy Attorney General says the conversation will be difficult and sensitive, however if you as a parent cannot talk to your child, then who will?

She went on to say that the victims of the cases she prosecutes are extremely embarrassed to talk about what they went through, because they have never spoken to anyone about such issues— namely sex— and “I have to utilize other ways to try and get the victim to tell what happened.”

“Young girls as they are growing up, develop feelings and yet they don’t know what these feelings are,” she added.

“Parents are the biggest influence.” she stated. “Next are the reverends (the faifeaus, ministers, priests) and hearing from them would make children more aware of the situation and help them understand what is happening to them...and they’ll be able to make informed decisions on how to handle situations,” she said. “As parents you would want your children to make informed decisions... and parents and churches play a big role in this area.”

She commended the Department of Human and Social Services’ Child Protective Service unit for doing a great job dealing with and responding to sexual crimes occurring in the territory.  She feels that their outreach programs do help to get the message out to minors, to be conscious of perpetrators out there.

She also congratulated the Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) unit for their hard work.

“The detectives are very receptive when working on sexual crimes, they are excellent in how they handle these sensitive issues, they work around the clock to assure that our children are safe and secure.”

“We work hand in hand, not only on sexual cases but any case,” she said.

“We are getting far better quality work from police and it has to do with our working relationship. We trust them... that equals better prosecution,” she said. “Captain Lavata’i Taase Sagapolutele and the CID crew are awesome”.  (Lavata’i heads the CID)



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