Survey in Samoa: 25 percent of respondents say they were sexually assaulted

Photo Credit: 
J. Kneubuhl
IN THE FRONT LINES: Students Nairy Galemoa and Michela Tarrant with Mona Uli of the Alliance, Psychology instrucor Derek Helsham, Acting Dean of Academic Affairs Evelyn Fruean, Veterans Center Director Robert Toelupe, and staff advisor Rocky Mane.

APRIL IS SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH IN AMERICA

(MAPUSAGA--FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2016)--The American Samoa Community College (ASCC) Social Sciences Department and Psychology Club, in collaboration with the Alliance for Strengthening Families, presented a Forum on Sexual Assault on Thursday, April 14th. ASCC students, faculty and administrators came out in support of the event, which featured guest speakers Mrs. Mona Uli representing the Alliance, as well as Mr. Robert Toelupe, Director of the Veterans Center in Ottoville.

Across the nation, April is designated “Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” an annual campaign to raise public awareness on the subject and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.

“An event like this is important,” said Psychology instructor and Psychology Club advisor Mr. Derek Helsham, “because one of our institution’s intended learning outcomes is for students to apply what they’ve learned with integrity and to take responsibility for their actions. It’s also a means for them to engage in professional dialogue and participate in a serious community issue. An event like this also emphasizes the need for multiple voices to be heard. With sexual violence now a major public health, human rights and social justice concern, we hope to educate students to become advocates for those who have been victims.”

Mrs. Uli opened the Forum with an overview of the problem of sexual assault in our community, as well as the many approaches taken by the Alliance to address it.

“Sadly, it is still the case that the majority of these cases go unreported,” she reflected, “and among those that do get reported, the perpetrator is typically someone known to the victim, even a close relative. Clearly, we need to create an atmosphere where people can speak out, and where victims are empowered to seek the healing and the justice they deserve."

Toelupe, who spoke next, advised students that if they enter professions related to Psychology or Social Work, they will routinely be faced with clients who have emotional issues, including victims of sexual assault. Therefore, they should know the five signs of emotional health as a means of assessing the particular issues clients might be struggling with.

The five signs are trust, security, self-control and power, self-esteem and intimacy.

Toelupe also spoke of aggression and passivity as the two extremes, both unhealthy, that every individual needs to negotiate, and how the changing cultural circumstances of a location like ours places our value system under stress. While his discussion ventured beyond sexual assault per se, he clearly made the point that cultivating better mental and emotional health is a necessary first step to addressing the problem of emotionally unhealthy behavior.

“We’re so fortunate to have people from the ‘front lines’ of this struggle like Mrs. Uli and Mr. Toelupe share their experience and insights with us,” commented Mr. Helsham at the conclusion of the Forum.

FINDINGS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVEY

“The Psychology Club will try to focus on this issue on an ongoing basis, so in the future we will try to offer more events like this.” Mr. Helsham also described how the Psychology Club recently collaborated on an Alliance survey of ASCC students on the subject of sexual assault.

“The survey results make it clear how urgent it is for us to continue sending the message that sexual assault is wrong and more needs to be done about it,” he said.

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