8 May 2022, Apia Samoa. A man from Toamua-Uta has been taken into custody, arrested by the Samoa Police and charged with assault after allegedly beating his wife who is 8 months pregnant, infront of their 3-year-old baby girl. Deputy Police Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo confirmed to Samoa Global News that La’ila’i La’ila’i, 39, was arrested by police on Sunday night, and will be remanded in custody until his first Court appearance, yet to be set by the Court Registrar.
Ululima Faatui’s Mother’s Day Story
It was the Friday night before Mother’s Day Sunday. Ululima Faatui, 36, was looking for a way to ask her husband if she could spend the long weekend with her own mother at Utulaelae, Falealili. Living with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter in Lailai’s village of Toamua-Uta, the 8-month pregnant mother says she now hardly gets to go home and visit her parents and family anymore.
Married to La’ila’i since 2018, Ululima had learnt to tip-toe around her husband, to avoid things that would trigger his moods and abusive behaviour. Sadly, asking to go and visit with her family, was one of those triggers.
She had decided to ask him before leaving for work on Friday morning. Ululima works for Frankie’s at the SNPF Plazza in Apia. Lima put forth her request, ever so gently, praying that she would spend Mother’s Day with her parents in Utulaelae.
Her request was met with complete silence. She knew then, that it would all lead to no good for her. “Forget about going, the request itself would now trigger an explosion no doubt..”
Later, on the same evening, her fears became her reality.
On Friday night, as La’ila’i sat in his armchair sipping on a mixture of local vodka and water, he decided to raise the issue of his wife’s intentions and request to spend Mother’s Day with her parents.
It started with the usual name-calling, the yelling of accusations that she was unreasonable, a fiapoko, a paumuku, and a disrespectful wife who did not know her place. The verbal abuse was followed by slaps and punches, before Ululima was thrown out of the house with the door slammed and locked behind her.
While all that had been going on, as was always the case, her 3-year-old baby girl watched with tears streaming down her face. It wasn’t the first time. She had heard her baby girl’s cries between blows before.
From outside, Ululima gathers herself, and calls a girlfriend and colleague from work, to tell her what had happened. She had become smart about keeping her phone hidden on her person during incidents. She hears her friend’s voice over the phone, responding in the same way as usual: “Are you ok? – I told you to leave him already – Do you need us to come pick you up?”
Ululima gives her usual response. “No – I’ll be ok – I can’t leave my little girl behind”.
“I looked through the window and could see my daughter sitting on the floor in front of her father,” Ululima says. “He was sitting on his armchair facing her, yelling at her while she cried..”
It was an inward suppressed cry. At the young age of 3, Ululima’s daugher had already learnt that crying was one of the triggers for her father’s anger towards her mother. So she didn’t dare let out a sound.
Her mother sat watching through the window from outside.
“He was pouring water into a glass, to mix with his vodka,” said Ululima,.
Lailai yells at his 3-year-old daughter, “Don’t you cry, if you cry, this cup will break all over your face..”
“Ou te vaai atu lava i le faamalama, o loo masusu lava si a’u tama, ae o loo ligiligi le vai e sui ai le ipu voka, ma avaavau lava, Aua e ke kagi, e ke kagi loa lilii loa le ipu i ou foliga..”
Ululima watched until her husband yelled, “Go to sleep!”. Once she could see through the window that her baby girl had curled up in the corner of the house, and was sound asleep, Ululima, heavily pregnant, was then able to lay down on a concrete slab outside her home. She stretched her back and tried to rest. She didn’t know what time she had fallen asleep. “Ua ou leiloa le taimi na ou moe ai.”
At around 2am she awoke to her phone ringing. It was Iva, her friend from work she had called earlier in the evening. Iva was checking on her.
“How are you doing?” (Ua a mai? Oa mai oulua ma le keige?).
Ululima told her friend she was ok. She was feeling chilly with the night dew, so she walked over to the family’s faletele (meeting fale) and rested there.
At about 5am she awoke. “I had to get to work.. it would be a busy day at work, being the last day for Mother’s Day shopping”.
When she looked through the window, she saw that her daughter was awake. Lailai had fallen asleep, still sitting in his chair. “Ua moe nofo ai lava i luga o le nofoa..”
She motioned her daughter to open the back door. Once inside the house, she tried to move around quietly to avoid waking her husband, but she was not quiet enough..
Lailai woke up to find his wife getting ready for work, and packing a bag of clothes.
Another beating followed. The usual slaps and punches… but then, as Ululima was facing away from her husband, Lailai reached for the palaea – a heavy pair of pliars. Lailai threw the pliars and it hit his 8-month pregnant wife on the back of the head. She felt dizzy, possibly concussed. As he took another swing at her, he lost balance and fell over. This allowed Ululima to make a run for it. The 3-year-old ran out of the house after her mother.
It was still dark out, and they hid in the garden.
Lailai’s young niece came out to look for them. Lailai’s sister’s daughter who lives with them. Ululima asked her to go into the house and grab the bag of clothes she was trying to pack. The young girl managed to slip in and out of the house, and brought Ululima her things.
Carrying a backpack (ato faafafa) and holding her daughter’s hand, they started to walk away from the house as fast as they could, along a Toamua-Uta off-road towards the main road.
They walked along the road, until she could hear heavy footsteps behind her. Ululima turned to see her husband following them. Lailai was marching towards them, gaining ground with each step. Ululima braced herself for what she knew would be an even worse beating. Still holding her phone, she dialed her friend Iva’s phone number again.
Back at Ganasavea and Iva Tafeaga’s Home
Iva Tafeaga was awoken by her friend’s early morning phone call. When she answered, all she could hear was, “Fia ola, fia ola faamolemole, faamolemole, ka fia ola..”
Iva wakes up her husband, and in tears, she pleads with him that they must go, now!. The phone is still on, and they can both hear the beating, and Ululima’s voice still crying out for help.
Ganasavea Manuia Tafeaga is a reporter with Samoa Global News. Grateful that the company car was assigned to him for the long weekend, he gathers his distressed wife and they drive towards Toamua-Uta. When they arrive, they drive slowly along the places where Iva has seen Ululima get off the bus after work. In the meantime, Ganasavea had called both the Samoa Police and the Samoa Victim Support Group hotline for help and advice.
The Roadside Beating
When Ululima’s hair was pulled back by her husband, she lost her grip on her daughter’s hand. He punched her in the face and she fell down. While she was down, he kicked her in the face and he kicked her in the back.
“The only part of me I was trying to protect was my stomach..” says Ululima.
“When he had had enough of beating me, he left. I lay by the road until I gathered the strength to crawl further away from the roadside. My daughter stood beside me. He had taken our phone, but left our bags”.
Ululima stood up, gathered herself and their bags, and took her daughter’s hand again. They continued to walk until they reached the main road, and she saw a faleoo. These are small fales seen on the side of the road where the untitled men of a village would gather when protecting the village, called fale-leoleo.
Ululima crawled into the fale, and lay down on her side.
O le pa’o o le savali a le tagata na ou autilo atu i tua o lou toalua ua latalata mai. Na ou tago loa i le telefoni ma vili loa se fesoasoani. Na futi lo’u ulu i tua, ma mamulu ese atu ai si a’u tama mai o’u lima. Na tatu’i o’u foliga na ou pa’u ai i lalo. Na kiki o’u foliga ma lo’u tua. Pau lava le vaega sa ou taumafai e puipui o lo’u manava. O le malie lava o lana fasi, ona alu ese ai lea. Na ou taoto ai lava i luga o le auala, seia tau maua se mapu ona ou tolotolo lea i tua ma le auala. Na umi se taimi o ou taoto i autafa o le auala seia maua se malosi. Ae o loo tutu si a’u tama i o’u tafatafa. Na o le ma telefoni sa alu ma ia, ae sa tuu uma ma ato e lei tago iai.
After a while Ganasavea and his wife Iva could hear the phone had been turned off. When they called back, they could hear a man’s voice. He hung up.
They continued to drive slowly along the road, until they spotted Ululima inside the fale-leoleo on the side of the main road at the Toamua-Saina boundary. They parked the car up close to the fale, and helped Ululima and her daughter into the car.
When the Samoa Police Domestic Violence Unit arrived at Ganasavea’s home, Ululima was lying down, resting. The DV Officers called the FESA ambulance and had Ululima taken to the hospital, with instructions that a full report of her injuries and condition should be sent back to the Commissioner of Police.
Ululima says, “I want you to tell my story and let people know that this is happening, even on Mother’s Day. The saddest thing for me is that it is Mother’s Day, and I was looking forward to the weekend, but this has been a very sad Mother’s Day for me..”
“Ta’u atu i tagata lenei tala ma lenei mea e oo lava i aso faapitoa mo tina, o loo tupu ai lava. O le mea e pito sili ona ou faanoanoa ai tele, ona o le Aso o Tinā. Sa ou look forward lava, ae o lenei, ua na o se aso o faanoanoaga mo a’u..”
Ululima was discharged by the Ministry of Health, TTM national hospital on Saturday night, with instructions to come back for a check-up on Wednesday.
She was picked up by Ganasavea Manuia and Iva Tafaega from the hospital on Saturday night, at about 8pm. She and her baby girl spent the night with the Tafeaga’s in their home.
As this goes to publish, Ululima is stable. She and her baby girl are safe with her family. Ululima’s mother is happy to have her daughter home.
Deputy Police Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo said police are now also investigating when and where local vodka was purchased from, in relation to this incident, as well as other cases, where the banned local products have been found.
Prevalence of VAWG in Samoa
Despite onging efforts through various programs to alleviate and address the issue of violence against women and girls, the number of reported cases continues to rise.
The deeply rooted mindset that “it’s ok” for a man to beat his wife, and an acceptance by some that a woman’s role is to satisfy a man’s desires, coupled with suggestions that it is a woman’s place to “keep the peace” has created a sense of entitlement amongst perpetrators, with the result being incidents of sexual violence towards young girls and intimate partner violence towards women becoming a norm.
A nation-wide study conducted by the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in 2018 confirmed the prevalence of violence within communities.
The national study concluded that 87% of respondents said they had been threatened within the home environment while 86% stated they had been subjected to punching, kicking and other types of physical assault. Similarly 87% of respondents said they were subjected to harsh words, put-downs and name-calling, while 24% said they had experienced choking. 9.5% or almost 1 in 10 women said they had been raped by a family member in their lifetime.