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On the Campaign Trail 2012

First forum for congressional candidates on Family Violence, hosted by MDT
reporters@samoanews.com

The first Congressional forum in the territory on family violence hosted by the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) touched based on many issues such as the increase of sexual related cases within the past years, statutory rape, child abuse, SORNA or Sex Offender Registry Notification Act, sex education and laws pertaining to those convicted of sexual crimes against minors.

The forum, held earlier this month, is part of MDT’s active campaign to break the silence and heighten the awareness on all aspects of family violence in American Samoa.

The forum was held at the Gov. Rex Lee Auditorium and was attended by all five congressional candidates: Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, Rosie Fuala’au Tago Lancaster, Aumua Amata, Kereti Mata'uti'a Jr., and Fatumalala Leuluaiali'i Atualevao Al-Shehri.

Vice Chairperson of the MDT, Ipu Avegalio-Lefiti said family violence is a social ill that until recently was pretty much not addressed at all. “It wasn’t until the enactment of the Public Law in 2004 that the problem of family violence, or more commonly referred to as Domestic Violence, was taken out of the closet.

“Since 2005, more and more people have been prosecuted for violence in the home,” she said.

Lefiti noted it is very important to address problems surrounding Domestic Violence and hosting the Forum for the Congressional Candidates is one way to address these issues.

Moderator was Nu’nu’uimalo Toleafoa Apesoloma from the American Samoa Community College.

Two of the more interesting questions asked were about the increase of sexual related crimes in the territory and the role of sex education in the schools.

RISE OF SEX RELATED CRIMES

The moderator noted that according to the warden of the Tafuna Correctional Facility, 85% of crimes for which people are serving time are sex related crimes. Given that there are no professional programs or counseling available for sex offenders, what can you do to address this problem?

AUMUA

Aumua said local leaders should work closely together with the federal government for instance, the SORNA or Sex Offender Registry Notification Act, to establish it in the territory. She said we also have to work with local lawmakers to enact laws that give strict penalties against the offenders, she said.

FALEOMAVAEGA

The law is there and has been since 2004 said Faleomavaega. However, these issues should be addressed to the government leaders, starting from the Governor who should work with the Fono. He said then the congressman awaits a request from the government leaders on what the Federal level can act on.

“There are laws already in place; it is a the lack of enforcement and the lack of resources that the government has to provide in order for the women and children to be protected against abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence,” he said.

FATUMALALA

She noted that there are a lot of issues that she wants to address regarding the increase of sexual related crimes. “I am trying to see how to separate the church and the law… given that the very seal of the government, Samoa Muamua Le Atua (Samoa, God Comes First) is being violated.

“My perspective is that, it is most appalling that at the time where there is a great advancement in intellect, wisdom and a time to gain an understanding in our degrees and education, how can this number increase? Surely there is something not done right.

“People are not going back to the basic roots of their foundation —that is right back to God, this is the problem and why the 80% is increasing.”

KERETI

Kereti said if he’s elected he will look into this very important issue from a Federal level. He added he believes that the Domestic Violence issue is critical because it affects everyone.

“We have churches in our community and yet we have an 85% of sexual crime offenders? If I’m successful, I will involve churches organizations and schools, and we also need to approach this from a cultural perspective. Another best approach is to look into the laws again and clean it up so it can be applicable to the situation in American Samoa.”

ROSIE

She said from a federal government perspective, laws have been in place since 2006 and yet American Samoa is not in compliance. “These are sensitive issues because it involves family, culture, and communities.”

“The federal law is there to protect the victims but our people need to come together and work with local leaders… together, to help address these issues and help the victims.

“The funding as far as to help the victims is there but we do cannot tap into it due to local law. If I’m elected, I will work together with our local leaders, let’s find courage to address this issue.”

SEX EDUCATION

Do you think we should teach Sex Education in our schools? Why or why not?

AUMUA

Amata said our children need to find out in terms of how their lives will be affected and there are ways to do it. She suggested that the church, families, law and culture need to work together in cooperation. Amata said if the children are not taught about the birds and the bees from a good source, they will find out from people who don’t know much about the subject at hand… like their friends who are the same age as they are. She suggested that religious leaders should work together with the Department of Education to make sure that this education is done within perimeters of the culture, family and within the laws.

FALEOMAVAEGA

He said this is not an easy subject, because since the foundation of our culture the female is always known to be the sacred ones in a relationship between a man and woman.  He added that in our culture it is deeply held that you know what you are not suppose to do.

Faleomavaega pointed out that he did not depend on his father to teach him about this subject. He added that he was taught to be very respectful of  women… any woman.

He further stated that there is a very serious relationship in our culture that needs to be emphasized and there is no need for a palagi version of this subject taught within schools because it is already part of our culture. 

“I have a very different perspective about teaching sex education I think this is something that is inherited in our culture, that we have a very positive way of addressing it,” he said.

FATUMALALA

She took issue with the name of this subject, “sex education” it’s like saying its only sex which she found offensive to her ears and her understanding.

This subject should be called ‘reproduction education’ because it points to the process that God created. 

It needs to be taught, but to be given the name sex education just does not sits well with her.

KERETI

Kereti said from a Federal perspective he can only play a supporting role and noted that he’s afraid that the federalization of school programs would tell our local education system to teach sex education within schools which is good for the national standards. However it should be locally established and initiated and then be included in the local curriculum.

ROSIE

Rosie was against having sex education within the school system, and noted that the parents should teach their children to respect themselves and others— but to be exposed to sex education is something she’s against. 

Rosie noted that parents have a close relationship with their children and should teach them what they need to know but as far as sex education to be taught in public she does not support it.

MDT MISSION

The Multi-Disciplinary Response Team (MDRT) is dedicated to minimizing the trauma to victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault by creating protocols and policies that will unite various government agencies and non-governmental agencies in American Samoa in their efforts to protect, intervene, educate, investigate, and prosecute these types of crimes.



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