For the past few years the Alliance Team has invested in an exercise “My One Word” from a book by Mike Ashcroft & Rachel Olson. The two authors focus on the power and beauty in words, and how they help to create movement. Words help us to focus and expand our horizons, and place in our minds a world of possibilities. This year one of our staff chose the word “unravel”. The intersections of oppression, domestic violence and sexual assault requires a lot of unraveling. In our ASTA (Awareness, Sharing, Training, Action) bimonthly sessions we focused on “Unraveling Oppression”.
The funding provided to the Alliance dictates our workplans to educate, promote awareness and build capacity for our member organizations, and partners regarding domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Discussions center on power and control. The Duluth Model of power and control provides the framework which includes tactics used by perpetrators to control victims. Feminists who work in areas of domestic violence and sexual assault believe the foundation of power and control stems from oppression. Oppression comes in many forms, with sexism being one of the most well-known form.
Sexism is a system of power in which men have power in society over women. For physical and sexual violence men will use their power to isolate victims. They will control who they see, where she goes, and limits any outside connections. Abusers will use intimidation, making the victim feel afraid through looks, actions, smashing things, or destroying her property. Male privilege, where the victim is made to feel like a servant, and he acts like the “master of the castle”. Abusers will define men’s and women’s roles to keep the victim under control.
The most prevalent and unnoticed cultural impact on the lives of women is the treatment they receive by society because they are female. In Samoa we have a patriarchal society, where men hold power in matai settings, church settings, and system of government. It is important that we understand how our cultural messages influence the lens in which we see the world. In our ASTA what we unraveled is our cultural foundations, the “Fa’aSamoa”, religion, and government, are tangled with the oppression, and violence.
There is much to be unraveled as we look to define our stories (i.e. where a woman is unable to take care of herself and requires a man to be sole provider, and authority in the home. In the coming months we will share our discussions on gender roles, and its intersections with violence. We invite you to learn from our sharing.