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American Samoa: AFSF Launches Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 8, 2014

AFSF Launches Sexual Assault Awareness Month

President Obama has once again proclaimed and designated April 2014 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and from now till the end of the month, the Alliance for Strengthening Families and its community partners have planned a number of activities and events planned under the general theme of raising public awareness of sexual violence in American Samoa. Alliance Director Faaalu Faletoese Iuli explained, while a number of agencies in the Territory exist to offer assistance to individuals and families when a case of sexual assault comes to light, as is generally the case, there exists an even greater number of sexual assaults in our community that go unreported.

“Awareness means creating a climate and environment where people feel safe enough to know where to go, who to share with and how to receive the support and in many cases appropriate treatment,” said Iuli. “While some progress has been made in this regard, we want to remind everyone of how crucial it is that this responsibility belongs to everyone. April of every year is also the designated month for the awareness of Child Abuse, Teen Pregnancy and now since Obama’s tenure, Sexual Assault Awareness. The Challenge before us is to develop and nurture existing opportunities within our island community that provide safe choices, empowerment and open places to maintain and sustain healthy cultural practices to ensure sexual violence is a thing of the past.”

Iuli said that by far the biggest obstacle in developing and providing safe responses to sexual violence is the silence resulting from the fear, denial and shame that is embedded in this form of abuse. “Research clearly shows that 98% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by those known to the victim and within the family setting. Sexual assault has a far reaching impact into an individual’s life whether they are aware of it or not. We need to share a common vision of a community where the silence, shame and denial associated with this form of violence is no longer ignored or allowed to erode and destroy our families and community.”

Countering this reality is a commitment by agencies and individuals within our community to projects such as a designated space for healing, reflection and other associated purposes that will open at the end of April in Ili’ili. The Place for Opportunities & Restoration (PFOR) STEPS Project is a joint initiative by the Alliance and the Toe Afua Mai Matua (TAMM) Program to develop a garden that includes a labyrinth or a healing walking path. This project is now in the final stages of development at the Ili’ili TAMM Sanctuary opened by First Lady Cynthia Moliga early last year.

The Alliance is committed to promoting awareness of and providing support and coordination for the government and non-government agencies working against sexual violence such as the Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General’s Office, the Courts, the Department of Human and Social Services, the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs, the Department of Health, LBJ Hospital, Toe Afua Mai Matua, Catholic Social Services, Teen Challenge and others. “Every individual, group and agency has a role to play” reflected Iuli. “What is required is an effective coordinated response and while our common goal is to change the community’s attitude about sexual assault and the various forms of sexual violence on our island, we also want to remind the public of what assistance and support is currently available.”

Anyone interested in the full schedule of events and activities taking place as part of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is welcome to visit the Alliance Offices in Nu’uuli or call them at 699 0272.

ENDS

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