Greater care needed to protect our girls

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Here’s the thing. The idea that a 10-year-old girl was fooled by a complete stranger, who claimed that her mother had sent him to pick her up from school, before he took her to a banana patch where she was raped, sends shivers down the spine.

It’s heartbreaking and it is difficult to accept that such a thing could happen here in Samoa, especially to such innocent young lives.

What’s even more disgusting from what we’ve been told, is that after he raped her, the man wouldn’t leave until the frightened girl gave him $5 and a pack of biscuits. This has got to be one of the most horrifying stories we’ve seen in this country for a while. 

We agree that these incidents are not new and that the rape and sexual abuse of young girls has become ever so prevalent. But there is something far more disturbing about this story. 

Folks, the idea that someone who was already doing community service for a crime he had previously committed, was allowed to waltz into a school compound and led out a young girl should be a wake up call to everyone.

It should be a wake up call to all schools about the need to protect these innocent lives. It should also ring alarm bells for all parents about the need to educate our children on some very basic rules to protect themselves. One of them is the obvious one, that they should not talk to strangers. Period.

The good news is that this sexual predator, Isaia Liuafi, of Leauva’a and Talimatau, has been found guilty and will soon be serving the time he deserves at Tafaigata. We trust Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren will slap him with a custodial sentence to reflect society’s absolute disgust at his treatment of this innocent girl.

Ladies and gentlemen, no one deserves to go through such an experience, let alone an innocent 10-year-old girl. What happened to her that day has got to be one of the most nauseating and stomach-churning experiences a girl could be subjected to. This repulsive man deserves to take the full brunt of the law. The justice system has got to make an example of him in terms of sending out a strong deterrent message that their kind are not welcomed in this society.

The concern is that we are seeing more and more of these cases emerging, involving such young girls. Not a week goes by now where we don’t see stories of the Court dealing with rape cases involving innocent young lives. 

In the Samoa Observer yesterday, there was a story about another 53-year-old man who has been jailed for raping a relative who was only 12 years old at the time. 

What is going on in Samoa today? 

What could possibly be driving the rise of such low-life behaviour in this so-called Christian state? 

Everyone will have an answer. It’s about time we start a decent conversation with the idea of finding some workable solutions to this problem.

In the meantime, we repeat the rape at St. Therese Lepea should be a timely reminder, not just to schools, but to all parents about the need to look after their children – especially girls. 

As much as we’d like to think that Samoa is safe, not everyone is the same. And there are some very sick people out there who have absolutely no morals and respect for the rule of law. 

What this actually calls for is tighter controls at schools about drop off and pick up areas. We know the case at Lepea is not the first one and it will not be the last one if we don’t do something about it. 

Perhaps now it should be made mandatory for parents – and guardians – to sign in at school when they pick up their children. We have far too many young girls being allowed to leave the school compound without anyone accompanying them. This is a recipe for disaster, not just in terms of sexual crime, but also road safety.

Schools and parents should also be enforcing the message to students that they do not talk or interact with strangers at all. This should be one of the first things students should are taught. They should be told that even if they are picked up late, always ensure they stay within the sight of a teacher or a school official.

And lastly, the protection of our children is ultimately the responsibility of parents. It means we need to be more vigilant in terms of watching them anywhere and everywhere. It means we need to take total responsibility to pick them up from wherever they are. 

In this country today, while it is sad to say, our young girls are no longer safe from these sex predators. In many cases, even inside the sanctuary of their own homes, they have been violated and raped. This is a crying shame.

We need to be sure we are doing everything in our power to ensure they are protected. Have a safe Friday, Samoa, God bless!

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