There is no doubt that the last few weeks have been hard. Across the world, we are facing an unprecedented larg-scale crisis for survival against the COVID-19. Here in Samoa, the 4th April 2020 will mark the end of the 14 days State of Emergency called upon by the Government on 20th March 2020.
The S.O.E saw the closing off of our borders, restricting the gathering of 5+ people, distancing and quarantine of people, to name a few. The priorities at this stage are prevention and safety. However, Samoa Victim Support Group had seen the general uncertainty within our families due to this crisis, perpetuating violence, hence compromising the safety we hope to maintain at this time.
As people are called to stay at home, others are losing their jobs, while the ones fortunate enough to continue working are faced with transportation problems with buses called to a halt. The result saw people being forced to remain in close proximity to their abusers, the laid off breadwinners struggled to feed their families, while the ones who used to commute to work via buses have to fork out a more expensive taxi fare. The uncertainty is perpectuating violence.
Over the last 2 weeks, SVSG had handled minor cases from families fighting over the rationing of their food during dinner; to severe matters where a husband allegedly run his wife down with a family car. Safety had been violated due to our people in a state of uncertainty.
For instance, SVSG evacuated a mother and her 6 children who called the SVSG Help Line at 5.00 in the morning, as the children have gone for a day without food, the father had been laid off from work. In another incident, a mother of 4 children reached out to the Help Line for assistance as her husband had threatened to kill her when he returned from work. SVSG worked together with the Police in evacuating this mother and her children from the village, to the safety of the Campus. SVSG had also applied for 4 Interim Protection Orders for the protection of the mothers involved in these severe cases.
The Help Line had never been busier than ever, as per the last two weeks, especially with women experiencing violence in the home while being on lockdown; from fathers stressed over the loss of jobs and even from young children crying over the phone for food. Interesting also, we have the ones who have everything going well for them, except that during these quiet times, they now have the courage to speak out, while remaining anonymous.
Safety! is therefore the surviving word for this pandemic, especially given that in crises like this, pre-existing social inequities are often deepened.
For those experiencing violence, especially those forced to stay in lockdown with their abusers, know that you are not alone. Help is not on Shutdown. Call SVSG on the 800-7874 Help Line. It is free, and works 24 hours.
For the ones who feel isolated due to the effects of distancing and quarantine, look at it as a critical time to pause, rest and reflect. There is always sunshine after the rain. Because as the Word for today says, Let us shield ourselves with that overcoming attitude: ‘This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.’ (1 John 5:4).
“Stay safe everyone; and keep the faith.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President