Op Ed: Quiet tolerance of sexual assault

Refusing to accept the unacceptable is the motto for this age. Nearly one in five women in America has been a victim of rape or attempted rape. Every year, too many women, men and boys are sexually assaulted and abused. This is an offense to our basic decency and humanity, and it must end. It is everyone's responsibility not only to speak out, but also to take action against this injustice. It is said, “sexual assault harms and weakens the foundations of a nation, and hurts those we love most.”

But what of an island-territory being shaped by an administration where many turn a blind eye towards child sex offenders and molesters, spouse abuse and human/labor trafficking? What of an island-territory where some Directors or gatekeepers of institutions remain silent and apathetic while threatening the minority who seek justice, transparency and accountability? What of gatekeepers whose jobs depend on their silence, gatekeepers who prevent victims from receiving the services mandated by local and federal law, and gatekeepers who spend federal funding to shield officials and government sex offenders?

We keep pointing to and capitalizing on the pain and scars of survivors, when our silence and lack of enforcement is a major part of the injustices against human rights.

Our islands have come an incredibly long way, in taking strides toward awareness and advocating for victims of sexual violence. We have navigated and weathered attitudes, victim blaming and corruption to shift the behaviors that allow sexual assault to go unnoticed, unreported, and unpunished.

According to the Chief Justice, with the increase of court cases, 90% are domestic violence. Who is the court scoffing at? Is it the malingering and apathy within the system, ignorance or the spiritually dead?

We have courageous survivors who have gone above and beyond the call of courage to share their incredible stories. Many have not seen the light of justice or been vindicated for their brave stand. The only weapon survivors have is their faith and their story.

Every year we reward survivors with empty lip service and handouts and meaningless Proclamations. We pay them off by exploiting their stories and emotions to accumulate the numbers for grants. Year after year— still no decent shelters for them. The newest shelter for the homeless allowed a rape of a minor to happen in their protected facility.

The current ASG shelter has not increased in size since it was built over 60 yers ago. Due to this fact, I am led to believe it is not a priority to this or past administrations. With the increase of victims, shelters are more like revolving doors. For documentation sake, they are pushed out to the community to shelter, feed and protect rather than the departments perform and provide the duties they are federally funded to make available. When the leadership fails, it impacts and places the burden upon an increasingly unsupported and frustrated workforce, and a community that is losing faith and trust in ASG and the church.

My spiritual father, the late Rev. Oka Fauolo, once told me with sadness when I asked his opinion on some NGOs and government departments receiving federal aid, that offer assistance to domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault victims, “those who have the gift of sight are eating the food given for the blind.”

How do we strengthen our criminal justice system, uphold the civil rights of victims and survivors of sexual assault, and ensure that all people can live free from sexual abuse/violence?

WE the people; if there are no people, there is no church, no government, no culture. What have we become? An island of natives chained by our silence and apathy by ASG and many Clergy.

The following are unresolved reports:

A child molester living with the Commissioner’s family is still at large and has not been charged (1/15). Lacking police support, the children are still being harassed by the uncharged offender.

Reports and accusations levied against the Chief of Immigration Office for sex trafficking of a female victim (5/15), still unanswered.

The Director of Dept. Youth and Women Affairs office in denial and concealing the fact that his office is involved in the rape of a minor in their Homeless shelter (7/15).

A previous Deputy of OPAD mysteriously resigns while a pending investigation of sexual misbehavior and conduct is launched by the staff (10/15).

LBJ is still pending internal investigations on allegations of sexual harassment (12/15).

A sex offender who assaulted a woman, who sustained several knife stab wounds to show as proof, is still at large in Nuuuli (10/15).

Young women molested on religious compounds (2014-15).

Enough charged child sex offenders have had their cases easily overturned or dismissed (2015). Is it due to pathetic prosecutors, poor investigative and documentation procedures or deliberate interference?

Victims of Human Trafficking with bizarre stories ignored by Homeland Security, rather than activate the Task Force to initiate assistance. Victims are left on their own pending the investigation. No safety, shelter, food, transportation, medical or spiritual assistance.

It’s also been reported, how several victims from ASG shelters were removed and delivered back to their abusive sponsors without court orders (8/15).

With all these ASG leaders involved in these situations, is there such a thing as Internal Affairs, EEO/Race Relations office? How about peer-pressure in the Cabinet level or Fono level?

I’d like to hear an opinion from our Congresswoman and women at the cabinet level and business. I believe addressing these issues would help improve and have a positive impact on our local economy. Until the leadership take their roles and responsibilities to task, what a waste of manpower and resources.

This is election year 2016. What is all the more sad, these are the same people that will be regurgitated right back into the ASG system because of their professional “savvy” and our failure to act.

April is the National Sexual Assault Awareness month. National and local proclamations will be delivered and promises made.

We the people demand for accountability and transparency in delivering justice. We need improved and expanded facilities with gender considerations. Some day your child, grandchild or precious person may be violated while you’re busy scratching each other’s back. Someday you may need a safe house. Someday you may need a committed professional to defend you. Some... may not live to see another day. Remember, Awareness and Consequences go hand in hand for justice.

3/28/2016

(My information is based on a camouflaged trend I’ve been following as a victim advocate for the past 20 yrs. These accounts have taken a tremendous leap forward within this past two years. Sad to say, due to a fractured data collection system there is no clear reporting for Samoa.)

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