Rehab will cut domestic violence in American Samoa, says public defender

Rehab will cut domestic violence in American Samoa, says public defender

Rehab will cut domestic violence in American Samoa, says public defender

Posted 15 April 2011, 9:30 AEST

Drug and alcohol programs will have more of an impact on domestic violence rates than jail sentences, says American Samoa's public defender.

Most domestic violence cases in the Territory are caused by drug and alcohol abuse.

Public Defender Ruth Risch-Fuatagavi told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program that more money from the government and relevant non-government-organisations is required to develop appropriate rehabilitation programs.

"We have very few drug and alcohol treatment programs here on the island and its been my experience that many of the domestic violence cases revolve around drug and alcohol abuse," she said.

"Until you can successfully find a way to treat that drug and alcohol abuse, you're going to have a very hard time treating a family who is also in crisis with domestic violence issues, so that's the first step we need to take.

"Then the other we need to do is strengthen the counselling programs that we have for the families as a whole."

Human and social services in American Samoa offer family counselling and parenting classes, as well as drug and alcohol counselling programs.

But Ms Risch-Fuatagavi says limited resources is leading to their limited success.

"It's not only the people who are accused of domestic violence who need the counselling, it's also the people who are the victims of domestic violence," she said.

"Often times what we find is that the stereotypical wife who has been the victim of domestic violence, recants her accusation or doesn't want to press charges because she's afraid that if she does their family is going to disintegrate or will be separated or the family finances are going to be affected.

"Both the victims and the people who are accused need to have some resources at their disposal so they can rehabilitate and bring the family back into a functioning unit, as opposed to trying to separate them.

"Punishment and imprisonment do nothing to rehabilitate a family.

"Often what it does is fracture it even further."

Ms Risch-Fuatagavi says government agencies and NGOs must co-ordinate to bring rehabilitation centres to the island as the cost involved would be too much for one agency to bear.

"What we need to do is get all the different government agencies involved in healthcare and human services co-ordinated together so they can pool their grant funds and apply for different grants that are available in order to get some of the facilities built," she said.