Rising Up – Creating Awareness for MMIW and Domestic Violence
“What does MMIW stand for?” There’s a growing movement in Indian Country to raise awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). In our Native communities, we are haunted by stories of the loss of American Indian and Alaska Native women, yet no data currently exists to fully depict these tragedies that have torn apart our families, communities and tribal nations.
It’s a sad reality that so many Native people have lost a loved one. It is even more despairing to never know the reasons why – to never lay your relatives to rest or to fully find closure. What we do know is that in some tribal communities, Native women face homicide at a rate that is more than 10 times the national average. Homicide is a leading cause of death for Native women, where three in four of those killed are murdered by their partners, family members or acquaintances.
It is hard to ignore that many American Indian and Alaska Native women who experience abuse in their relationships face being murdered at the hands of their abusive partners when domestic violence goes too far. In this way, missing and murdered is strongly tethered to our experience of domestic violence.
At StrongHearts, we join our Native communities in remembering our loved ones who have been lost. We honor them by rising and advocating for Native victims to help protect and restore safety in our communities.
Domestic violence, abduction and homicide have become all too common in Indian Country, and the response from law enforcement and legal systems when reporting crimes is often not enough. In fact, according to a report on federal declinations between 2004 and 2007, federal authorities with jurisdiction over criminal cases involving Native Americans declined to prosecute:
- 62 percent of criminal cases filed on behalf of Native people;
- 75 percent of sexual assault cases filed on behalf of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Because of these statistics, we as Native people are left to believe our experiences and our right to seek and acquire justice for the crimes committed against us do not matter because we are indigenous people. This reality — fueled by heartache and pain — is felt in almost every tribal community across this country.
Even still, a missing and murdered indigenous woman does not yield the same level of media attention that their non-Native counterparts receive. Public awareness of MMIW remains limited, even though sexual violence as a tool of conquest and genocide against Native people was utilized for generations.
At StrongHearts, we understand that our Native people need a lifeline to reach out to and share their stories to begin healing from abuse in their relationships. Most importantly, they need someone who is trained and empathetic with regards to historical trauma, cultural abuse and other intersections that are present in our experience of these issues.
StrongHearts provides one-on-one advocacy for callers affected by the issues of domestic violence and dating violence in our Native communities. Our advocates are available at no cost to provide emotional support and safety planning that is culturally rooted and trauma-informed.
When you are ready to reach out, we are here to hear your story. Call us at 1-844-762-8483, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST, seven days a week, for support.
Caroline LaPorte is the first Senior Native Affairs Policy Advisor for the StrongHearts Native Helpline and is an immediate descendant of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. LaPorte is a Texas Bar Licensed Attorney and concurrently serves on the policy team for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC).