The smile behind the bruises

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Lemalu Sina Retzlaff shares her thoughts about violence after the tragic incident last week.

She wrote: ” I am not perfect, in fact, far from it. I have many faults and also what a good friend refers to as ‘allowable weaknesses’. They are most probably just straight up weaknesses but friends always seem to tell you what you want to hear.
I will always love Brian as the father of my 3 sons. I continue to admire the discipline he applied to his chosen career, which ultimately led to great achievements and world wide respect.
I speak out only to help address a prevalent issue in Samoa and the Pacific. In doing so I also run the risk of backlash and open criticism. Whereas there is a lot of support, there is also a lot of judgment and excruciatingly personal character analysis being carried out about me in public forums. I see this as a small price to pay and am willing to take the lashings if the overall objective of addressing a critical issue through awareness, public debates and open conversations, can be achieved.

Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviours used by one person in a relationship to control the other.  Examples include name calling and putdowns, keeping a partner from contacting family and friends, keeping a partner from getting or keeping a job, intimidation and stalking. It is not just actual or threatened physical harm.

Domestic Violence is never a one-time thing. If you’re experiencing symptoms of it, know that if its left unattended, things will only elevate and get worse. That is what the experts say, but I have learnt this for myself the hard way.

I’d like to share some of the personal insights and learnings I gained as a recipient of a Fellowship Program supported jointly by the Pacific Institute of Public Policy, Pacific Media Assistance Scheme and the Pacific Leadership Program last year. The fellowship is designed to allow its recipients to research a developmental issue of their own choice. I had chosen Domestic Violence.

1.  DV is a global issue facing women all over the world. Deeply rooted mindsets and cultural norms exist in all cultures that impact negatively on women.  However, in Samoa and across the Pacific, Culture and Christianity are being misinterpreted and used as an excuse for violating women’s rights and therefore directly contribute to the prevalence of DV in the Pacific.

2.  Violence in the home is not a private matter. DV is a national issue for Samoa and every country in the Pacific. The social and therefore economic costs are real. These include the unnecessary and preventable strains on our under-resourced health systems, police and justice systems.  It impacts negatively on businesses and the productive sectors of our small island economies as women often miss many working days as a result of abuse.  Socially, it affects families, the very institution that we as Pacific islanders pride ourselves as being protective of.  The rights of our women and children are being violated by their own loved ones, and they are feeling like they have to walk on eggshells and watch what they do and say within their own homes.  Women make up half of the population, so this can ultimately lead to an under-achieving nation where half the polulation never reach their true God-given purpose and potential.

3.  Appropriate response systems for survivors must be put in place and followed through including a ‘Police Code of Conduct’ as I found they had adopted in Melbourne during my fellowship research.  This was a document containing formally endorsed proper procedures for every police officer to follow when called to deal with DV incidents. Everyone working in the space including health professionals, teachers, counselors and especially police need to build capacity in terms of understanding the intricacies of what Domestic Violence is. We need to get to know it’s known warning signs and pervasive symptoms, especially those that precede homicides such as excessive jealousy for example. In Samoa, people often joke about a jealous spouse as having a ‘faamai’ (disease, though incurable disease is what is being implied). But I hope that we educate ourselves, especially professionals who work in the space, so that first responders to incidents of domestic violence can identify these known warning signs and offer proper counseling and direction, instead of reinforcing the symptoms by being ‘faikala’ and contributing to spreading rumors.

4. Domestic Violence is not a women’s issue and I believe we will never be able to combat it if we exclude men. It is my strong belief that in our Pacific cultural context, it is imperative that men are not only involved in anti violence campaigns, but that they are visibly seen at the forefront of such initiatives. Boys growing up will learn by observing behaviours so involving men will also help to break cycles of beviour for the next generation.

5. Finally, it is just as important to provide a call centre service for men. In Melbourne I met with Danny Blay, CEO of NTV (No to Violence). They provide an awesome call centre service for men who seek help. NTV believe and work on the premise that men do not feel good about themselves after incidences of violence. That they do not want to continue this behaviour and are aware of the impacts that this behaviour has on their partners and children. 
This is also a reminder to the general public that we must stop condoning the person and focus on the act instead. Public attacks on abusers and perpetrators does not help to solve the issue. Just as victims are our often our mothers, aunties, sisters, nieces and daughters,…the abusers are also our fathers, uncles, brothers, nephews  and sons. Support services and counseling must also be put in place for them.
So please don’t feel that you have to take sides. Public attacks and passing judgement on Brian does not help the issue.  Many critics probably have a relative or know of someone who has abused a loved one. I urge you take a stand on the issue at home and within your own church, village, workplace and family.
If you are being abused, don’t wait for it to get out of hand. Recognise and accept that you are not in a healthy relationship and seek help sooner rather than later.
There is a lot of information available online about DV and if you’d like to make a positive impact on this issue, then please go online and learn more about it.

Please stand together to ask how we can work together towards addressing gender based violence in our countries and the Pacific, and take a holistic approach to ERADICATE this disease once and for all from our intimate partner relationships, families and communities.

Please continue to pray for all parties affected as well as our police and those who are called to respond.

I stand in awe and thank God for His enduring love, grace and mercy. I pray for the Lord’s continued blessings on Brian and his family at this time.”

Sina Retzlaff
Survivor
DV

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Brian Lima: Charged with assault

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Brian Lima: Chiropractor by name and nature

This is Brian Lima, he is being charged for assaulting his ex wife resulting in physical injuries, and whom while they were married was also a victim of the same treatment. Radio New Zealand recently reported that Brian Lima has been charged with two counts of assault over the weekend, for publicly beating up his ex-wife, Lemalu Sina Retzlaff.
Brian Lima is currently the U-18 Assistant Coach for Samoa, and is renowned the world over as the Chiropractor during his time as a rugby player for Manu Samoa.
The fact that he is world famous does not make this right, if anything it makes it worse, it’s important for fans to know the person they are supporting.

When you Google his name we need to see that in addition to this rugby skills he is also being charged for assault.

Sources: RNZI, 3News

It’s not that we are inadequate, it’s that our Domestic Violence unit is certifiably useless

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This is Lemalu Sina Lima, she is an amazing woman and a survivor of domestic violence. In a story written by Sophie Budvietas on the front page of Samoa Observer yesterday, it told of Sina as many know her, and how she was brave enough to leave her husband two years ago, only to be beaten publicly by him on the weekend. It’s such a sad sad story, one that has happened to a very strong woman whose drive and determination is an inspiration to so many people. When I read this story, apart from the obvious shock and disgust for the perpetrator, I was more ashamed of the way the Domestic Violence Unit of the Government of Samoas response to her plight. According to Sina, when she went to request a restraining order, the Police told her to go to the Samoa Victim Support Group, and did not offer the assistance themselves. I’m just going to step out of my politically correct shoes here and say: “How fucking ridiculous is that?” The Unit exists to protect victims of domestic violence, yet when someone with obvious injuries as a result of domestic violence comes to them for support they send her away? You know something is very wrong in the system when this sort of thing is allowed to happen.

There are many cases like this, of women going over to seek help from Police, only to be told to seek assistance elsewhere, in saying this, I am not discrediting the work of all officers or the whole unit, but regarding this particular issue there is a lot to be desired.

In 2008 I was punched in a face by a drunken woman who was upset about a story I had written about her in the newspaper, when I went to the Police immediately thereafter, with my eyes still oozing blood, the first thing the Police asked me was: ” What did you do to the husband of the woman? ”

In 2009 my relative was pushed out of a car by her partner, the Police who responded did no further investigations as they were friends with the partner of my relative.

What does Sinas story tell us, that the law simply was not enforced or brought to bear, even though the proper process was followed by the victim. Women will continue to suffer as long as the rule of law is not enforced. If the unit established entirely to focus on this issue cannot respond then what hope is there?

Those in power should ensure that the DV unit is functional and effective, not to mention actually useful. It’s no use driving around in a flash DV vehicle donated by the generous dollars of the Australian government when you don’t actually protect the people you are meant to be protecting.

Photo: Samoa Observer

Samoa sex crimes has reached epidemic proportions

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Vui Clarence Nelson is known for his no-nonsense approach in his sentencing. He is a husband, father, grandfather and a Judge. In a sentencing last month which has famously been re-quoted over and over by the media, the Judge referred to the increases incidences of sexual assaults against young girls has reached ‘epidemic’ proportions in Samoa.

According to him these incidences are frowned upon by all cultures and that those who commit such crimes should expect no leniency from the courts.

Sources: Samoa Observer, Talamua

Photo: Majella Thomsen

Sefulu Ono Aso on Radio Australia

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Manu Samoa rugby player combats violence against women

Posted 9 December 2013, 16:41 AEST

Top Samoan rugby player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu says more men need to take a stand to stop violence against women.

He says the problem has reached epidemic proportions in Samoa. Mr Fuimaono-Sapolu has joined internet based Sixteen Days of Activism campaign (Sefulu Ono Aso), saying the issue is an embarrassment to Samoa.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Samoan rugby player Eliota Fuimaona-Sapolu

FUIMAONA-SAPOLU: Oh, I think violence against women, the sexual abuse, the violence, it’s ridiculous, it’s disgusting, there’s no excuse for. I’ve never heard people make excuses for it, but in Samoa, it’s very. very bad. We had Honourable Judge Vui come out, a judge in the Supreme Court of Samoa come out and say it’s an epidemic. Now, this is a man who has years and years experience in the courts and he’s seeing it daily, like you just read the Observer and you’ll see an article “Grandfather rapes granddaughter” Father rapes daughter, uncle rapes niece, like something everyday, they’re something everyday. And for the judge to come out and say it’s an epidemic, that’s unconscionable. I can’t even describe how bad that is, considering the fact that 90 per cent of the sexual abuse that goes on never gets reported. So he’s making a comment on the reported cases. This is beyond, it’s ridiculous.

The other excuse I’ve heard used a lot is well, this is a problem that’s very prevalent amongst all countries and it’s true, you see this everywhere, but that’s not an excuse not to address it and the problem is we always chuck that excuse out there and we never address this problem. So hopefully, this campaign can finally get us to look at this problem. It’s a huge problem in Samoan society and maybe we can’t address everything around the world, but we can definitely start somewhere and we can start with Samoa, and hopefully we can start making changes now.

HILL: You have suggested that there is a bit of male chauvinist, I won’t use the rest of the word, but it was something to do with bovine excrement that pervades Samoa and the Prime Minister came out and told Tau Samoa not to embarrass the country by losing ?? But you turned that whole statement completely around, didn’t you?

FUIMOANA-SAPOLU: Well, that’s the thing. We have very, an old, when I say a chauvinist mentality, it’s not so much so just men, it’s just that old Colonial way of thinking.

So, here we are having the Prime Minister and his statement, but it’s completely ignorant to media and the power of social media right now. So for him, Rugby and Rugby League, that can embarrass Samoa, but then I can be sitting in Alaska and I can read an article in the Observer, about what’s going on in Samoa. He has no idea the power of media and the internet at the moment and that’s the old way of thinking. These are old leaders, they’re old Colonial mindset and this is the problem. This is far more embarrassing. Everything that happens in Samoa is broadcast to the world, so it’s not now about you sending athletes and it’s up to this campaign army to they’re going to determine our reputation. No, no, no. Samoa is constantly under the microscope these days and that’s by the internet and everything, so what goes on in Samoa, you can’t hide it anymore. You can’t keep, oh, it’s OK, so long as they rape they’re and it’s quiet and noone knows about it, then we’re going to keep a good name. Times are changing and now we have to make these changes, because that is giving Samoa a bad name. Everything that’s happening in Samoa is giving Samoa a bad name.

HILL: Do you think the fact that you, a man, a Rugby player, a member of the National Rugby team speaking out like this is going to give men the guts to come out and take part in this campaign?

FUIMOANA-SAPOLU: I think you’ll see a lot of men have already stated their opposition to violence, sexual abuse, everything that we’re talking about. I should hope so, I should hope so, but if not then, we can’t rely and wait for celebrities to validate what we’re doing. We can’t wait for the actions to be legitimised by a few celebrities and then OK, I’m going to jump on board now. We have to see that this is wrong right now, this is wrong for anybody, not just if it’s done to famous person or if a famous person thinks this is bad. We have to do something now and everybody can play their part. There is this old Colonial way of thinking, but in all honesty, they’re old, so we have to start with our children, start with our youth, give them, empower them, especially the women. They can do anything they want to do. And the other thing is we’ve got to teach women, teach girls that they are inherently strong, they are strong and then we have to teach our boys. You need to change your perception of what strength is. It’s not force, it’s not violence, that’s not strength. So it’s small little things here we need to change.

I’ll give you an example. Like there used to be things like oh, you throw like a girl, little stupid statements like that and then the Mythbusters went in and did an experiment and yes, the boys throw more powerfully, but they proved that the girls are more accurate. So how was that bad? you know what I mean. So just little things that we can switch up, but we shouldn’t wait for celebrities to validate what we’re doing.