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Op-Ed: The NIGHTMARE lives on

The holidays are meant to be happy times. However, for young female children with a history of being molested, they are anything but happy. Sexual assault, being impregnated against their will (and without their understanding) make them easy victims for more sexual violence and assaults as they grow into adulthood.

These are undocumented situations that almost everyone has known about, been exposed to or grown up with here in Samoa — but are very difficult to expose.

A recent news report has it that 54-year-old Mr. Kaio Levao allegedly had the audacity to touch a 19-year-old young lady’s private place, and then waylay her again after she rejected his advances.

The attitude — that it is alright to sexually assault and harass young females because they have given birth — has a long, shady history that has been carefully kept under the radar.

For victims of all ages, it is offensive, humiliating, shameful and degrading.

Imagine these young victims barely into their teens trying to survive from past sexual traumas. Especially the many victims who have suffered in silence and discouragement, because they feel it is too dirty and embarrassing to talk about.

It does not take a psychiatrist to figure out how perps or offenders thrive on this silence — which perpetuates the notion that these girls are free and fair game. It is easy to convince them that they have no choice but to submit. Unfortunately in the past — due to ignorance in a male dominated society — it has been easy to twist these behaviors in men’s favor, especially by matriarchs who are in denial or who push the forgiveness card.

Throughout my years of growing up in Samoa, I have many times heard mothers,sisters, aunts, grandmothers etc. blaming the victim for their circumstance, sneering at them “ua e le toe aoga’’ — “You are of no value now”. Most of the victims have their hair shorn off. Even males whisper that to subdue girls, thus leaving them isolated and unprotected.

This attitude of victimizing victims has crept through the ages and survived the Dawn of Christianity.

In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act. For the past 20 years, we —the advocates for these victims of sexual violence — have worked to continuously break down walls of ignorance, empowering women and communities to make the stand against domestic and sexual violence, by reporting the crime and supporting the survivors with education through outreach efforts.

In December 2012, a courageous 19-year-old young lady stepped out of the nightmare she was about to fall into and reported the sexual assault made against her person. A 27-old- woman with two small children reported her 58-year-old step father for allegedly sexually abusing her and exposing her young son to sex abuse.

A man would not presume to touch a dog. Yet these offenders, through their actions make statements that women are to be dehumanized and forced to be subservient to their sexual advances. Without any thought one elderly man blatantly puts his hand on a teenagers vaginal area as if it was his right to do so while the other father fondles his daughter while she sleeps.

As long as we keep exposing these heinous behaviors for what they are and who is committing them, it will help protect another child or person from being sexually violated and make sure the offenders are incarcerated. It will also help and empower the community in believing that they do have the RIGHT to be protected. And for the survivors and their families it will them a sense of justice and closure.

Happy Holidays, and commit yourselves to preventing family, domestic and sexual violence.