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American Samoa’s coordinated community response to sexual assault continues to gain momentum

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “Collaboration strengthens the response of individual agencies and unites them into a coordinated team approach. No one agency can successfully handle all aspects of a sexual assault. Each agency is important and has its strengths and limitations. Effective multi-disciplinary teams generate a stronger response and produce more effective outcomes for the victim and the criminal justice system”

The 2nd meeting of the American Samoa Coordinated Community Response Executive Leadership Team convened yesterday, Wednesday the 21st of August 2019 and was hosted by Empowering Pacific Island Communities (EPIC). The Office on Violence Against Women Project Ta’iala o Alo Tama’ita’i or TOA Tama’ita’i was awarded to EPIC, a local community-based, non-profit organization.

The overall project goal is to improve outcomes of victims of sexual assault by increasing access to culturally specific, evidence-based services for American Samoa. Through training, education, skills development, legal services, and policy development — EPIC helps public and private organizations build capacity and improve collaboration when addressing victims of crime, specifically survivors of sexual assault.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was executed to symbolize a unified, collaborative effort across key agencies responsible for responding to sexual assault in the Territory. The MOU was signed by multiple agencies which play a vital role in developing public policy, first response and ensuring survivors access to emergency medical services, medical treatment, forensic examination, free civil legal services, counseling and advocacy.

Tasi Tuiteleleapaga, Nancy Tagaloa, Falefatu Ala’ilima-Utu, Will Ledoux, Dr. Ianeta Timoteo, Dr. Celestine Nix, and Saipai Cassens following the signing of an MOU by key agency representatives, responsible for responding to sexual assaults in Am Samoa. See story for details. [photo: LF]

The MOU represents a written commitment from participating agencies to formally establish the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and appoint its agency representatives as SART Members. Stipends were also presented to three LBJ physicians who successfully completed the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) training recently hosted by the American Samoa AHEC program in conjunction with the Western Region Public Health Training Center – Dr. Bethel Muasau-Howard, Dr. Ianeta Timoteo and Dr. Olita Koria-Laitiiti.

EPIC contracted with SoValTi to facilitate the establishment of a Coordinated Community Response in the territory as well as launch the FREE Training for Sexual Assault Victims Advocate/Counselors and conduct the initial training for members of the SART. The training will be held at the U.S. Army Reserve Pele Center Thursday and Friday, August 22-23, 2019 from 4pm – 6pm.

Concerned citizens, advocates and service providers from the government and community are all invited to attend a general workshop on the American Samoa Coordinated Community.                                 

For more information please contact project manager Saipai Cassens at 254-0051 or the EPIC office at 699-7923.