We are taught that holidays are a joyous time of the year, but for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, the opposite may hold true. In our small community, it is common that survivors are familiar with their abusers. During Samoan gatherings survivors are forced to decide whether they miss time with loved ones at family gatherings to avoid coming face-to-face with their abuser. It is important for friends, family members, advocates to listen and offer support to survivors, and to know what to say when a loved one shares their story, because it can be overwhelming and frightening at first. When you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips on how to support a loved one who has experienced abuse.
Tips on helping your family or friend:
Listen to their story, and believe….
Survivors can continue to struggle after abuse. Supporting a victim or survivor could be letting them know you are available if they are ready or need to talk to promote healing. One of the biggest fear’s survivors hold is the certainty that their story will not be believed, which may stop them from reaching out for help. Victims may hold feelings of anger, frustration, fear or sadness during the holiday season, and may not know how to express themselves.
In this situation we suggest that the best support you can provide is to “listen”. Many times our natural response is to question survivors, or victims, or provide a litany of ideas of what one should do. When your loved one shares with you about the act of violence, we encourage you to listen. If a family member, or friend is trusting you with their story, the best you can do is listen. The following are words of support:
In our community we know that abuse hides behind a veil of silence. In our family and village settings there are many whispers about changes in appearance, or someone “witnessing” an act of violence. Many times, victims show signs of being uncomfortable in social events, or may seem withdrawn, and they pull away. If you feel a family or friend displays changed behavior, make the time to reach out to them. Abuse creates isolation, and when you reach out this may decrease isolation. But more importantly, if there is no abuse, it’s always lovely to maintain connections with your loved ones.
Recognize the victim knows best….
If you are an advocate, or provide support, remember that we are all experts in our own lives, which means we know what will work best in our own situation. Victims/Survivors of abuse understand how their abuser will react to changes made, or what will happen if they call for help. If helps when they are recognized as the experts in their situation, and we help navigate them through potential options and choices.
Know your resources…
If you are a victim of assault and would like to report the assault, please contact 911 immediately, to get immediate assistance by Department of Public Services, Emergency Medical Services, and referral to Department of Human Social Services. LBJ Tropical Medical Services Emergency Room have physicians who have experience in working with victims of domestic and sexual assault. They have social workers who will provide additional assistance. You can contact the Department of Human Social Services, child care 633-1571, who may provide assistance. You con contact the Alliance at 699-0272 during regular working hours, Monday thru Friday and we connect you with a community advocate.
If you are having difficulty providing support to a victim of abuse, or you are overwhelmed by the stories you are hearing, connect with the Alliance. We are here to provide you support. You are an important person to any victim or survivor of abuse, and we want to make sure you are never alone.
From the 25th of November to the 10th of December, women’s organizations around
the world raises awareness on violence against women and girls. These 16 days of
activism against gender-based violence are a global campaign started in 1991. The American Samoa Alliance against Domestic & Sexual Violence recognizes the 25th of November is when the 16 days begin and is the International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls. The last day is December 10th, known as the International Human Rights Day.
The 16 Days of Activism were created as an act of remembrance to honor the three Mirabal sisters, victims of political murders by the secret police in the Dominican Republic. The Women’s Global Leadership Institute led the global campaign thirty years ago. Today they still coordinate the campaign which involves more than 6,000 organizations in 187 countries.
Each year is devoted to a different theme – in 2019, the campaign ran under the
hashtag #RatifyILO190, which urges States to ratify the 2019 Convention of the
International Labor Organization regarding violence and harassment. Although this
Convention is applicable in all cases; it specifically tackles gender-based violence and
harassment, acknowledging that the main victims are women.
In honor of the 16 Days of Activism, the Alliance will post daily messages on social media (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc) to focus on issues that help to shine a spotlight
domestic violence, sexual violence and femicide. Other Advocacy groups will organize huge marches in great capitals and small towns alike. In Chile this year, the feminist collective Lastesis
presented the powerful performance “The rapist is you” outside the Ministry for
women’s rights and equality, and it was soon adapted by other groups in cities such as
Paris. Besides street protests, the 16 days of activism are also a chance to organize many
conference, seminars and social media publications, making sure that violence against
women and girls remain high on the agenda.
These 16 days of activism are your opportunity to engage with women’s rights and
fight for a future in which all women and girls are free from violence. From your own
personal life to political organizing or direct support, there are many ways to combat
violence makes perpetrators accountable and support victims. Join us and support us
work to guarantee we end gender-based violence in American Samoa!
Alliance) held its first ever Poetry Slam, encouraging participants to “Embrace their Voices” against Sexual Assault, in partnership with Brown Girl Woke founder, Maluseu Doris Tulifau. The Alliance is committed to providing youth a platform to heal, and reflect on issues of violence. On November 14, we held our fourth poetry slam at the American Samoa Community College Multi-Purpose Center. November’s theme was to encourage participants to BE BOLD BE HEARD allowing participants to take a stand, and let their voices be heard.
“The best part of working with the youth is that they are a marginalized group,” stated Maluseu, “because of culture and transitions the youth never get to speak or feel that their voice matters.” The Alliance supports the poetry slam because it offers a safe place for our community, especially our young people to speak their truth on conflicts they witness or experience.
More than a dozen voices provided their stories, including two of the judges who were so moved by all the pieces. The narratives were about politics, depression, nature, science, domestic and sexual violence, etc. This recent poetry slam definitely ended with a SLAM!
Alliance Executive Director, Jennifer Tofaeono commented, “We are grateful for the yearly success of Poetry Slam. The Alliance is committed to increasing awareness in our community about topics that make our youth feel unsafe. The partnerships with ASCC, the local Department of Education, and Brown Girl Woke, and many more has really helped to create safe spaces. We are extremely proud of our collaborative efforts.”
The Alliance thanks our local Judges, Local Representative Sam Meleisea, Empowering Pacific Island Communities (EPIC) staff, Ms.Saipan Cassens, Executive Director Nancy Tagaloa of Catholic Social Services, Robert Toelupe of Department of Veterans Affairs and American Samoa Community College Instructor Derek Helsham.
All participants were given a prize for their participation and four of those participants were given prizes for placing top four. Special appreciation, and tremendous gratitude to our local businesses for our prizes Tanoa, Lijah’s Gift Shop, Bluesky, Forsgren’s Koko Samoa Bliss Cheat Day ACE Hardware All Stars and ASCC Staff Derek Helsham & Kayla Sauafea. Your contributions continue to help make our Poetry Slam’s a success.
If you would like more information on our next Poetry Slam, please contact Alliance Program Specialist, Judy Matautia at 699-0272, visit our Facebook, and Webpage, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org