The Women and Children Crisis Centre expresses its sincere thanks to organizations, departments, businesses and individuals for all their support and donations. The centre is raising much needed funds so that it can continue to operate the safe house and free counseling services for survivors of violence –including domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. The Centre has been running a fundraising drive, which included a radiothon and collecting clothes and food from villages all over Tongatapu.
Since the Crisis Centre established itself as an independent, Non Government Organization in late 2009, it has received partial funding from Mama Cash<http://www.mamacash.org/>, Global Fund for Women <http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/>and the Fiji Womens Crisis Centre <http://www.fijiwomen.com/>. However the costs of furnishing and maintaining the safe house (which provides short term housing for survivors of violence) have been entirely reliant on the generosity of the Tongan community.
“It is amazing – every single thing in the head office and the safe house has been donated. To us, it is a sign that the greater community support the work that we do to eliminate violence” said the WCCC Director, Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki.
Reports of violence against women have been increasing in Tonga, with Ministry of Police statistics indicating that 2,753 women have reported as victims of physical abuse since 2000.
“Eliminating violence in Tonga requires the support of all parts of our society. These donations are a symbol that all parts of the community considers violence against women to be a priority area.
Especially in these times when the Tongan economy is not performing well – the decision by businesses to donate to the centre is very much appreciated. During times of economic hardship, the number of clients to the crisis centre also increases” said Guttenbeil-Likiliki.
Finances are an ongoing factor of stress in relationships, and financial abuse in which one partner controls expenditure is very common.
The centre still accepts donations and support in any way you can to help eliminate violence against women and children.
Contact 22 240 for more details
“I am very, very concerned” said WCCC Community Education Trainer Asela Sauaki, “I really worry about the way we define rape under Tongan Law.”
As a Community Education Trainer, Sauaki runs workshops and programs to increase the level of understanding about the work that the Crisis Centre does – working to eliminate all forms of violence including domestic violence, sexual assault, rape and child abuse.
“The part of the training that I am most embarrassed to talk about is way we handle rape under Tongan law. I think its very old fashioned – and just wrong.”
Since 1999, the marital rape law has been overturned in Tonga. As it currently stands, those who are raped married is not recognised as a crime.
“Rape is a very serious crime – it is when you are forced to have sex with someone you don’t want to have sex with. Some people cannot really ever recover from this crime and I worry that this limited definition may allow cases where women and children have been raped to be punished as a lesser crime.”
The definition of rape in Tonga is also very limited – it only allows for penal vaginal rape. This means that those who are raped in other ways such as anal, oral, hands or raped with objects, are only charged as indecent assault rather than rape.
“It is time that we have a law that recognises the needs of women and children. Rape happens to those who are vulnerable in our society – it is a disgusting abuse of power over a victim. We need the law to protect those who are venerable in society”.
I have contemplated on commenting on many issues for this months’ newsletter.
But an issue that is really hitting at the core of my heart is the issue of rape and sexual assault on young girls here in Tonga.
It is disheartening for me to report that we have seen an increase in the reporting of rape and sexual assault to the centre.
The impact of rape and sexual assault on a young girl in Tonga is severe. The impact on her self-value, her self-esteem, her education, her health, her dreams and goals in life all crushed in the one or sometimes years of horrific sexual abuse.
I also think about the young victims and survivors who don’t have the courage, opportunity or who feel that they don’t have the right to tell anyone or report it. It pains my heart.
As a mother of three young girls, I am committed 101% together with the many dedicated staff here at the WCCC to provide on-going services and support to these victims. We believe and promote zero tolerance to Violence Against Women and children.
We also believe that our culture and Tongan-way of respect and humility should not be used as an excuse to reconcile and to decide what is best for the victim’s life or to accept a level of violence within out families.
We believe in the survivor and support her right to speak up.
I encourage you to do the same. If you know of anyone who is a victim and survivor of rape or sexual assault in Tonga, now is the time to begin talking about these difficult issues.