“UPSTANDING MEN DON’T BEAT THEIR WIVES”
By now, news of the disgraced cabinet member, Jonathan Fanene, arrested over the weekend on a series of domestic violence related charges has spread throughout the island. Fanene, a former NFL player, and current Director of the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs was charged with second and third degree assault, kidnapping, and possession of a prohibited weapon.
Following his initial court appearance where his request to reduce his $100K bail was denied, defense attorney Marcus Uiagalelei described him as an “upstanding guy” and that the incident was an “isolated one- a domestic dispute.”
Herein lies the problem.
Let us not fall into the false comfort of these words that paint Jonathan as a good guy and downplay his actions as an “isolated...domestic dispute.” Language is a political act and our choice of words matter. If you and I disagree on whether the dress is blue or gold, that is a dispute. However, if you raise your hand to me and beat me, that is an act of violence. Make no mistake, Jonathan Fanene’s actions were violent, and the upstanding good guy that people may have thought he was, is irrelevant. Upstanding men do not beat their wives.
Let me say that one more time for the people in the back:
UPSTANDING MEN DO NOT BEAT THEIR WIVES
The perpetuated violence against women is a worldwide epidemic. Those of us who have engaged in victim advocacy, know that domestic violence is never an isolated incident. It is one that has its roots deep in patriarchy where women are treated as disposable, beaten, raped and murdered whenever they irritate or inconvenience men. In fact, women are 500 times more at risk after leaving their abuser. Nearly half of all murdered women were murdered by their romantic partners.
If we are truly serious about addressing this epidemic, we need to stop propping up batterers like Jonathan. We need to hold him and many others like him, accountable for their actions. Further, if public servants are a reflection of their government, then Jonathan Fanene serves to remind us of what little value we place on the lives of women. And as such, there should be a public outcry calling for his immediate termination.
In the days and weeks ahead, more details will likely be revealed about this case. It is important that when those details are released, we refrain from engaging in the senseless chatter of trying to figure out what started it, etc. Nor should we lean into victim blaming.
Jonathan Fanene’s actions are inexcusable. Don’t justify his actions by giving him an excuse. Instead, we should be talking amongst ourselves about how domestic violence affects us and whether or not there are adequate services in place for survivors.
The prevalence of domestic violence suggests that we all know someone who has been, or is currently in an abusive relationship. Domestic violence takes a heavy toll on a survivor’s mental and physical health. And children, who are exposed to domestic violence, are more than likely to experience psychological and behavioral problems.
The cloud of silence that surrounds domestic violence in our communities needs to be lifted.
R. Leotele Togafau Mata’utia
(Editor’s Note: Samoa News received this LTE yesterday morning, and a copy of the memorandum relieving Fanene of his directorship yesterday afternoon. ra)