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.”