Two Samoan teenagers almost died in another car crash last night

Standard

Photo for illustrative purposes only. This is not a photo from the scene.

I witnessed a car crash last night about fifteen minutes outside of Apia. I was at a friends house when a pickup truck crashed within 40 meters of where we were standing. It was around 9:30 pm at night, when we heard the very loud bang, we saw from afar that a taxi stopped where the vehicle was, hanging over the water, held only by the power cables that hold the pole to the ground.

Being trained in first aid, we ran to the location of the accident. When we arrived at the scene, the first thing that I saw was an older Samoan man, in his 40s shouting loudly at a young blonde Samoan teenager. “I saw you overtake the vehicle, how can you not see that this is a bend?” The youngster screamed back: “I didn’t see the bend, it’s dark and I don’t know this road.”

Another teenager was standing next to her, it was clear that no one was injured, but the car was in no condition to be moved.

My first thought was to make sure that the young women were ok. I walked over and looked closely at the young woman who was screaming, and asked if she was ok. She was in a state of shock, but she was standing and seemed ok, at least physically.

I said a few words to the gentleman berating the young woman, and he left promptly to inspect the tyres of the vehicle.

From what I saw, the vehicle was speeding from Apia towards the eastern side, on the coast, when they came to a bend, not knowing the road, she made a swerve that was too far to the left and ended up heading straight for the power pole, lucky for them, the cables that hold the pole to the ground obstructed her trajectory and instead propelled the vehicle and threw it at a 180 degree angle, only to be caught again by the second cable thus preventing the car from being thrown into the ocean. Someone was looking out for these two last night, they were mere inches away from being wrapped around a power pole and then thrown into the ocean.

But this post is about what happened next.

After some scattered dialogue, it was established that the screaming young woman, was the driver. While I was talking to her, the smell of alcohol was quite apparent in her breath.

The other young woman, was sober and seemed in a very calm state of mind considering the circumstances, so while a friend talked to the driver, I approached the calm young woman.

This is how the conversation went.

Are you ok?

Passenger: Yes.

What happened?

Passenger: My friend is very upset, she was just very upset, so it caused the accident.

Was she drinking?

Passenger: She didn’t drink that much, just a shot.

A shot is drinking.

Passenger: I’m sorry.

Don’t say sorry to me, say sorry to yourself. You seem like a very smart person, the decision to get in the car with your friend who was drinking could have costed you your life.

Passenger: I didn’t know she was this upset.

Do you need to inform your parents?

Passenger: I don’t want them to know.

She told me she was wearing a seat belt and she could not convince her friend to do the same, which explains why she seemed calm. If she was not in the seat belt, she could have been thrown out of the vehicle during the accident.

I didn’t probe her for the number of her parents, but after the helpers examined the condition of the vehicle it was decided that there was no way it could be moved without a tow truck or machinery.

So then we had to ask the driver to call her Dad. This is how the conversation went.

We need to call your Dad, the car cannot be moved and we need to make arrangements for you both and for the car.

Driver: Oh my God, my Dad is going to be so pissed off.

After another back and forth she called her Dad. The Dad answered, she asked for him to call back, he did. It was obvious that she was in no state to have the conversation with her father, and her words were not making sense, so I took the phone and got friends to calm the driver down while I talked to her father.

This is how the conversation went.

Hi I’m ++++. Your daughter is incoherent because she was just involved in a car accident, she is fine, she has no visible injuries but it would be worth checking, however we wanted to inform you, the vehicle cannot be moved without a tow truck.

Father: What the hell is she doing at (names the village).

I don’t know, but she is safe.

Father: (inaudible cussing) What about the car?

It can’t be moved.

Father: What do you mean it cant be moved.

It’s stuck in power cables.

Father: Put her back on the phone now.

Your daughter is in shock and is not in a condition to talk. But you need to come pick her up.

Father: I don’t have a car to pick her up in. Put her on the phone right now.

I had the phone to my husband instead, who goes on to explain again that his daughter is in shock, this time the father insists yet again to speak to the daughter.

This is what I overhear.

Daughter: (In tears) I went to pick up (names passenger) because no one understands what i’m going through. No one listens to me. I’m sorry Dad, but no one understands me.

This type of tone continues for a while until she hangs up.

Four of us are now talking to them about the next steps and a friend says to her: You two are very lucky, you two could have ended up in the ocean, dead if not for those cables.

Driver: I wish I was in the ocean right now. My Dad is going to be so mad.

My friend, a mother of two grown young men kicks into comfort mode and tells them it doesn’t matter what happens from then on, as long as they are alive, that is the main thing.

———-

My Reflections:

When I went away from the scene, the driver and her friend now safely tucked in our friends house awaiting her parents, these were my thoughts.

1. Not once did the father ask if his daughter was ok.

2. Everyone at the scene before us were ready to beat up the driver of the vehicle, even though it did not harm them.

3. Why was this young woman drinking, and what was she doing driving?

4. Why did her friend get in the car knowing that the driver was drinking.

5. How come her father did not know where she was?

6. What if that was my daughter?

The incident is a painful reminder that some of the idle rich youth of Samoa need to be saved from themselves. When you give a young person who has never learnt to be responsible in their lives unlimited resources, some of them make decisions like this young woman, these two were lucky their lives were spared, but it could easily not have been.

But more than anything, this incident is a painful reminder that instead of an initial caring thought for those whom we love who have just been traumatized by something, the initial thought is anger. Those who were first at the scene were not attending to the young women, but instead were berating her for driving so fast.

When I got home, I looked them up on Facebook and found out that one was a national representative for Samoa, both just graduated from high school. They were so young and seemed well loved, last night could have been their last. Fortunately it was not. I hope however that the incident taught the driver a life lesson.

It is wrong to think that a woman’s place is to quietly sit by her husband and not have a voice

Standard

rc

My name is Richard Crichton and I am making a stand against violence.
Growing up in Samoa it felt like the prevalence of violence was the norm of island experiences. I am not just talking about sibling rivalry, or the accidental hit to the head with a Samoan cricket bat to my sister’s head when she ran from behind me unseen. My first eight years of school was at a Government owned school. I remember the teachers’ who ruled my class with a one meter ruler. The strikes you get for making a mistake, even pronouncing the teachers’ name wrong because it was your first day at school. I have had amazing teachers that I have learned so much from, but not all have conventional ways of teaching. I was taught early to learn things out of fear, I was great at getting the right answer not because I wanted to be knowledgeable, but because I was afraid.
Even students can be unkind to one another, between students of different schools. I have seen school girls humiliated not just by classmates but also by parents who thinks shaving her head short with lashings would discipline her. I know some of these actions led to teen suicide. I was never a violent person and I couldn’t understand why some students depict violent behavior. Perhaps it is violence that beget violence.
I have heard this saying among women “Ia ua la lou guku oso I lou koalua” (You shouldn’t speak up against your husband). It is wrong to think that a woman’s place is to quietly sit by her husband and not have a voice. If anyone says this is part of a culture I need to embrace, then I would relinquished my claims to my proud cultural inheritance. A woman is not an object to be owned, controlled or a punching bag for your problems. A woman is an equal.
Is it normal to be violent? No! Is it acceptable to be violent? Not at all! I am Richard Crichton and I am making a stand against violence.

You have never seen her like this before

Standard

Cherelle Fruean, a young advocate and entrepreneur. Photo by Tims Photography. Makeup by Jacqui Poulos. Concept Sefulu Ono Aso.

Her name is Cherelle Latafale Fruean, she is a young entrepreneur and an executive of the Young Womens Christian Association in Samoa. Today she appears as a victim of violence to demonstrate her solidarity with her brothers and sisters who go through this silently.

This young woman walked through Apia with a bruised eye, and people stared. For the first time in her life, she was exposed to the stares that come with the visible signs of violence. Cherelle agreed to be part of ‘walk in your shoes’ campaign by Sefulu Ono Aso, that brings people from all walks of life to put themselves in the shoes of those who have experienced violence and to share their perspectives.

She is a young Samoan woman, who has never been at the receiving end of violence and was raised in Samoa by two loving parents, which is why she has been active in supporting awareness and policy level interventions to address gender based violence.

This is her view.

“I was raised in a home where gender roles did not exist. My father wasn’t the sole bread winner because he was a man and my mother wasn’t the sole caretaker because she was a woman. If anything, the opposite was true. My parents took shared leadership roles in my family, they both had full time jobs and they both took turns taking care of my sister and I as children. When it came to cooking and cleaning we all took part, it became a time of family bonding. I am very blessed and ever grateful to have been raised in such a gender equal environment, however and unfortunately, this is a very rare exception.”

According to Cherelle it is a universal issue.

“Extreme gender inequalities still exist all over the world, and it is one of the root causes of violence against women. On the contrary to many beliefs, violence is not a cultural issue; it is not a part of anyone’s culture to be violent. It is part of our culture to be respectful, to be giving and to be loving. “Violence is learned behaviour; it can be unlearned and not learned in the first place.” One in three women will experience physical or sexual violence at some point in her life. Do we want this statistic to remain true for the generation of our future daughters? I sure don’t!”

She is hopeful for the future.

“We need to raise a future generation of empowered girls and young women leaders who are aware of their rights and are not afraid to fight for them. We need to raise a future generation of boys and young men who believe in respect, who believe that men and women are entitled to equal rights and opportunities.  We need to create a new normal, a Samoa where kindness, compassion and love hold power over violence and discrimination. A Samoa where ALL women, young women and girls are safe from violence, free to make choices, and are empowered!”

—-

Sefulu Ono Aso ‘Walk In Your Shoes Campaign’ Photography by Tims Photography.

She was threatened with a gun, so she left him

Standard

VMJ

After the death of her husband, this mother of seven found comfort in a friend, who later became her partner. He moved in.

“I had made a pact with him before he moved in, that once he laid a hand on me, I would leave him, no matter what, and that is exactly what I did.”

Several months into the relationship, he held a gun to her face while she was holding her two year old daughter, and he threatened to shoot. With her daughter on her left arm, she managed to pull the loaded gun away from him with her right hand.

“That was a million dollar decision that night, to carry my daughter on my left, because it saved our lives, as it meant my strong hand was left free to pull the gun from him.”

After pulling the gun from him, she told him to leave her house that very same night.

“The whole village, even my Uncles and those I respected sat me down and told me to stay with him, but I refused. My thinking is this, I can find another man, but I can’t find another me. If I allowed him to keep harming me, it would impact on who I was and would harm the lives of my children, that was not a choice, it was never a choice.”

“There was never a point where I was going to let someone else ruin my work, harm my children or erode my character,” she said.

“The decision was easy, because I respected myself enough not let anyone else harm me. I did not suffer, because I did not let him harm me.”

—-

*This story is told because so many people have gone through some degree of violence in Samoa, even those who are in positions of authority and influence have been through one form of violence or another.

This mother of seven, who is now a grandmother of 27 went on to accomplish much in her life, she never remarried. She was lucky that she had the strength of conviction to leave what could have been a fatal relationship. Others, are not so lucky. According to a Samoa Family Health Safety survey 46% of women interviewed had experienced some form of partner abuse – of which 38% was physical abuse, 19% emotional abuse, 20% sexual abuse.

This  story was told by the grandmother of Storm. The mother of Storm, was the 2 year old who was in her arms at the time of the incident. It is one of my first memories as a child, and as an effort to ensure that other children do not have to go through this, this campaign was set up.

Today, is the first day of Sefulu Ono Aso Storm Campaign. Please support the campaign by sharing.

I have to make sure that violence is not in their DNA

Standard

jasonh

Jason Hisatake is a young advocate who is part of the US Ambassadors Youth Advisory Panel and a career professional. According to him, a collective approach is needed in order to raise non-violent citizens for the future.

“From my experiences as a fa’afafine growing up in Samoa – violence on a more personal level starts at the heart of the building blocks of our country – our immediate family, or aiga – all forms of violence can be averted if we as adults and parents choose to raise responsible citizens, if we chose to raise our kids the right way. This in turn can avoid the domino effect of children growing up with violent behavior.”

According to him, faáfafines can play a crucial role as a supporting parents.

“I have no kids as a fa’afafine, I do have a lot of nephews and nieces and that means I can contribute to their upbringing. I have to try and turn the tide. I have to try and make sure when they grow up, that violence is not in their DNA. That violence is not an option for them.”

According to Jason: “As a faafafine, that is my role – A supportive alternative parent. The other parental voice, one of many that understands the father advice as a male, and the motherly advice from a feminine perspective.”

He says there are a diverse range of solutions, but chooses to focus on what can further enrich the lives of his nieces and nephews.

“How can I do that? By encouraging them to focus on their education, and every time I am with them, by reminding them of how important it is to always LOVE and uphold Christian principles. Choose to be kind. Choose to respect their parents and their siblings. And to choose to listen to that voice within them to be good, to do good and to not follow the path of violence.”

He said: “That is what I can do. That is what I must do. It takes me back to the inspiring words of Nelson Mandella: We owe our Children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society, a life free from Violence and Fear.”

His last words: “Thank you for the question and yes, WORLD PEACE – Menti Lee Mei (Miss Global)”

DISCLAIMER: Contents of this post do not reflect the views of the interviewees work place or any other affiliated organizations.

Beat a child up, and they might commit suicide

Standard

Image

Lupelei Tiatia is fourteen, she is from the island of Savaii. According to her, violence in any form is un-cool. Why? “Because it hurts.” She said, that listening to the neighbors beat up their children, and seeing couples fight is not a pleasant experience. “I mean, what is that saying, stop the silence and end the violence, they should do that.” She said that violence anywhere whether it be at school, at home or at Sunday school should not be tolerated. “I just hate seeing it and hearing it.” According to her, some young people will commit suicide if they are ‘beaten’ up by the parents. “I know a girl who committed suicide after her Dad beat her up. It’s sad, but that’s why I think violence will lead to suicide, because then young people will think that’s the only way to escape the pain.”

“Violence is both good and bad”

Standard

Image

I would never in a million years have thought of what Barry said in this statement, but it’s amazing what a child thinks about and how he came to this conclusion. He said: “Violence can be both good and bad, it’s good because you let your anger out and you don’t hold it in, but bad because it leads to other bad things.” According to this young thinker, sometimes when people don’t hit each other they remain angry for a long time and means they are very unhappy, but if ‘hitting’ occurs then the anger is over. But asked why it is bad he said: “If you hit someone it hurts them, and that’s not a good thing, the pain is not a good thing and worse things can happen because of getting beat up or as I like to say, when someone opens a can, or a tank of whoop lash.”