“ARE WE READY TO HEAR OUR CHILDREN’S CRIES?”
First time offender vs. first time raped. The Public Defender loves to play the ‘ First time offenders card’, which describes the defendant who has no previous criminal record. (But has a trail of unreported sexual misconducts with same victim.) So how do you put back to normal a child's first time being sexually molested or raped. Can the police or court put back the missing pieces of their overwhelmed and traumatized minds or their body tissue?
Can a psychiatrist or social worker erase the face of her parent, uncle or family friend that violated her. A convicted offender can do time, qualify for work release or parole. While the child is rendered a life time of torment, mental behavioral issues, isolation, etc. without quick and long term intervention. How do we get children to reconcile with what their young immature minds cannot articulate or understand what has been done to them or what they were coerced to do? How can children be expected to explain what they didn't even have a word for?
Many foreign prosecutors expect a Samoan child to know and understand the names and sensations of their private parts. Our culture/ decency has censored that understanding from them at that young age.
For example; What is an orgasm to a child's mind verses the adult that initiated it. A young girl will lose ground in her court case against the perpetrator, because decency/ shame will avert the word breast to chest. Genitals to stomach. Buttocks to lower back. All the victim knows is pain upon penetration, with nothing in her world to which to compare with it. It’s a defense attorneys playground to use our culture against victims. It reinforces victim blaming, denials and not believing the child.
Can the court order Social Services to provide her with long term counseling or refer for off-island treatment? A convicted sex offender was released to fight for his cause in the US supreme court. Another sex offender was referred off-island to be medically proven he is impotent. Drug addicts are allowed off-island for treatment.
The only off-island victim intervention I know of is the quick uprooting of the poor child to strangers/ family off island. Alienated from siblings, parents, friends, language, way of life, everything with which she is familiar. Meanwhile the offender keeps in physical touch with family while in jail and gets to go back to his home. How much more cruel can Samoa deal with child victims of sexual violence?
Almost every reported child and young girl has been sexually molested and raped in the safety and security of their own homes or environment. These predators have chosen to destroy the boundaries of human decency to deliberately stalk and violate their own daughters, granddaughters, nieces, cousins/ friends’ daughters.
Every act was done in secrecy, in the dark, at night, in the absence of adults/ witnesses or when the children are alone. The perp can blame drugs or alcohol all they want. They knew exactly in great detail how to navigate in the dark, when, what time to strike and the easiest escape route. A given is the perps feigned ignorance, denial or tear filled remorseful story to tell when they are caught.
To the victims/ survivors. It is not your fault, it is never your fault these criminal acts were done to you or me.
When you are uncomfortable with the way a person keeps looking at your body, walk away and tell your family.
When a person touches your breast, buttocks or private parts, slap the hand away, walk or run away. Tell your family, police or anyone you know. It has been proven, if it happens once it will keep on happening until you are raped, impregnated or until he/ she is caught.
These sex predators don’t care who the victims are or where they’re from. The target will always be your young children, the mentally or physically disabled. Why? because they are vulnerable, easy to manipulate, threaten, coerce, found or left alone. Perps don’t care of breaking the laws because they have powerful sponsors or connections to get them off or make life easy in jail.
The greatest secret of all under the Attorney General’s nose, is the American Samoa Sex Offender Registry (ASSOR). Every police station East, Central or West visited by the Catholic Social Services to process a client in filing police reports, when asked, has never heard of the ASSOR, or its availability on the internet. If they've heard of it, they do not know how to access it.
These are after the fact problems. Our greatest need NOW other than professional reinforcement is to have open talks to our children of every possible scenario that can lead too and prevent sexual victimization. These are not secrets. These are life saving, open family talks. This knowledge will free the children from perverted adults, who try to justify their filth and wicked actions.
Rather than fear, love and respect, children must learn to respond with anger, insult and disgust when they understand they are being violated. Children need to know that reporting should be as normal as sharing something to anyone. Perpetrators are so arrogant and confident. They believe that they will not be reported.
My apologies if this approach is offensive. We’ve come full circle several times in trying to prevent and spread awareness on sexual assaults, child / elderly abuse, suicide and substance abuse.
Our children need our help. Break the silence. We must believe our children. Step up, shout out and go through the process of reporting and filing a police report. This is not about us adults. It’s about our children and the rest of their lives.
April is ‘National Prevention Child Abuse Month.‘ Celebrate it by BREAKING THE SILENCE.
Ipu Avegalio Lefiti, Victim Advocate