Samoa Supreme Court Judge: Reports Of Sex Crimes Up

Reporting increase could stem from erosion of taboo, has urban bias

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, July 28, 2016) – “Sexual violation cases are becoming an epidemic in Samoa,” said Samoa’s Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson in an interview with Samoa News, pointing out that what has increased most is the cases being reported to the authorities, unlike before, when these matters were literally taboo.

“But there are two theories behind that, one is that a lot of these crimes are not being reported. What’s increased is not the number of crimes but it’s the numbers of reporting of the crimes. Women are now more confident to come forward and report these things and families are more comfortable and report it to the police, that why the sex cases are increased. But its not an increase in the number of cases rather its an increase in the number of cases being reported to the police,” said Vui. 

He said that the second theory behind it is that there’s just more sexual cases, “but I think it’s a combination of both — causing the substantial increase of sex cases coming before the court.”

The Samoa Supreme Court Justice said that is why he wants to start Samoa’s Sex Offender Registry so that sexual offenders that can be monitored and the ability to re-offend is reduced, because if they are not monitored they are ‘free as a bird’.

Vui told Samoa News that most of the sex offenses in Samoa are done in the urban areas.

“Although there is a portion from the village or rural areas, but the majority of the sex offenses occurred in Apia, Vaitele in the urban population — areas where there is little or lack of policing of the village councils. As compared to the rural areas, according to statistics comparing sex cases in Savai’i and Samoa, there is a substantial difference.”   Vui said that the village councils play a huge role in the policing of the villages where the villagers know that they will be penalized by the village if they commit a crime, and even though the matter is before the court the council carries out their due diligence in doing their duties and penalizing any offender in the village.   The Supreme Court Justice made it clear that he’s not saying that the village councils in Upolu are not doing their duties as chiefs of the village, but he’s pointing out the fact that in Savai’i, it’s much more traditional.

Samoa News should point out that sex crimes in rural areas could be under reported due to villagers knowing each other — with many related through clan ties, making it more traditional. Vise versa: Reporting on Upolu could be more frequent because of the mobility of the villagers; many of them coming into the urban areas to work and live, only returning to their villages to visit family or participate in a faalavelave.

The Samoa News
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