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Most women feel men’s violence ‘justified’

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More women than men - over 60 per cent - believe that violence against them by their personal partner is justified.Fauena Susana Laulu has been appointed Chief Executive Officer for the Development Bank of Samoa for the next three years.

In its report The State of the Worlds Children 2013 The United Nations Children Fund (U.N.I.C.E.F.) found that the majority of women rationalise “wife beating”.

U.N.I.C.E.F. defines this justification as “women and men...who consider a husband to be justified in hitting or beating his wife for at least one of the specified reasons on the survey handed out.

“If his wife burns the food, argues with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the children or refuses sexual relations.” Based on this definition the world organisation reports 61 per cent of women in Samoa aged 15-49 years justify familial violence.

This is compared to 46 per cent of men who feel the same way. In addition to this, U.N.I.C.E.F. found that 58 per cent of adolescent girls and 50 per cent of adolescent boys think that “wife beating” is acceptable here in Samoa.

The Ministry of Women and Community and Social Development was contacted, but was not available until next week to answer questions on the issue.

However, in its 2011 Update of Baseline In-country Review Samoa Report, the Pacific Prevention of Domestic Violence Programme (P.P.D.V.P.) provided a general assessment of levels of social acceptance and cultural tolerance towards domestic violence.

The P.P.D.V.P. said that all participants, including victims, Police, central government and NGO participants, agreed that awareness of domestic violence has increased markedly in Samoa.

According to its website the P.P.D.V.P. is an initiative of the New Zealand Agency for International Development, New Zealand Police (N.Z.P.O.L.) and the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police (P.I.C.P.).

“The long-term goal of the programme is ‘a safer Pacific free from domestic violence’,” the site reads. In regards to the increase of domestic violence awareness in Samoa the organisation offered up an example given to them by an unnamed Non-Government Organisation (N.G.O.) representative.

“Back in school, most of the elective topics that the students would study would be things like global warming,” the paper reads. “Now it is about domestic violence.

“Therefore I think kids are aware of domestic violence. “They have to research the issue.”

The P.P.D.V.P. also reported that there were positive shifts in domestic violence were also evidenced through public outcry against publicly trialled cases such as that of Samoan rugby player Paul Perez’s conviction in 2009 for domestic violence.

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“There was a case of a rugby player who hit his wife. It was in the newspaper and he lost his reputation,” the paper reports another unnamed N.G.O. representative as saying.

“He was quite popular, he was a role model, but when that happened he just came tumbling down.”

The P.P.D.V.P. offered up reasons for this increased awareness of domestic violence.

“The increased awareness of domestic violence was generally attributed to extensive education and grassroots awareness campaigns,” the paper reads.

“That have more recently been complemented by Police community engagement and awareness programmes.”

So with increased awareness and what appears to be greater acceptance of concerns about domestic violence here, the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) in its Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women found 41 per cent of ever- partnered women had experienced physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner and 20 per cent had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.

The data collected for Samoa was taken in 2000 by W.H.O. with the help of the then Ministry of Women Affairs, where a nationwide representative sample of 1,640 Samoan women aged between 15 and 49 years was interviewed.

The results are published on the W.H.O. website. W.H.O. reports that the study assessed women’s experiences of violence using a questionnaire developed and validated for cross- cultural use, with a special focus on violence by intimate partners.

“The combined prevalence for physical or sexual violence by a partner for ever-partnered women (women who had ever been in a relationship) was 54 per cent for those with primary education, 45 per cent for those with secondary education, and 35 per cent for those with higher education,” W.H.O. found.

“Violence was also less common for women living in urban areas and for women with higher income levels.” W.H.O. also reports that women who had been physically or sexually abused were significantly more likely to report pain, at 29 per cent, than never-abused women, at 22 per cent, and more likely to report dizziness, 55 per cent versus 44 per cent, and bodily discharge, four per cent versus two per cent.

“Women who had experienced partner violence more frequently contemplated suicide, 15 per cent versus 8 per cent,” the W.H.O. reports.

“Abused women who had ever been pregnant were significantly more likely to have had stillborn children, 16 per cent versus 10 per cent and miscarriages 15 per cent versus 8 per cent.”

The WHO also discovered that only 54 per cent of physically abused women, particularly rural women – had disclosed their experience to anyone.

“25 per cent confided in their parents, 12 per cent in friends, 7 per cent in siblings, and five per cent in neighbours,” according to W.H.O. “Less than two per cent told medical staff or police.

“85 per cent of women physically abused by their partner had never asked any formal agency for help.

“Of those who did, police and medical facilities were the most frequently mentioned.”

According to the study the main reasons given for seeking formal help were that they could no longer endure the violence, mentioned by 65 per cent who sought help, had been badly injured, at 27 per cent, their partner had threatened to kill them, at seven per cent, or the children were suffering, also at seven per cent. “86 per cent of physically abused women who did not seek help stated that they had not done so because they thought such abuse “normal”, or not serious enough to seek help,” the W.H.O. findings concluded.

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