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Talking About Domestic Violence in Our Native Communities

 In Abusive Behaviors, Domestic Violence in Indian Country

It can be hard to talk about domestic violence and dating violence in Indian Country. Many people feel uncomfortable when the subject comes up or might not know what to do, especially if a friend or family member is involved. 

However, we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t speak out about domestic violence. When we don’t talk about it, we allow the violence to continue in our communities.

Instead, we need to talk more about domestic violence because it can help create awareness that it’s a problem, prevent it from happening in our families and communities, and restore hope and safety for victims.

So, where do we begin? Let’s start by defining domestic violence and abuse.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is about power and control, where one person uses a pattern of abusive behaviors in a relationship to gain and maintain power and control over their partner.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone and is not limited to a specific age, class, economic status, religion, gender or sexual orientation. It can happen in relationships where couples are married, living together or dating.

Sometimes there are warning signs of abuse in the beginning stages of a relationship, but violent behavior can appear at any time. Possessive or controlling behavior often reveals itself as the relationship grows more serious.

Abusive behaviors can physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a person from acting freely or force them to behave in ways they do not want. So, what does abusive behavior look like?

Types of Abuse

There are several types of abuse, including physical, emotional, spiritual/cultural, sexual, financial, and digital abuse. Here are some examples of behaviors that someone could use to gain power and control in a relationship:

  • Physical – Pushes, slaps, punches, hits or strangles you
  • Emotional – Calls you names or puts you down, or isolates you from family or friends
  • Spiritual/Cultural – Prevents you from honoring spiritual or tribal beliefs
  • Sexual Abuse – Pressures you to have sex or demands sex when you don’t want to have sex
  • Financial Abuse – Controls the money in your relationship
  • Digital Abuse – Tells you who you can or cannot be friends with on social media

There are many kinds of abusive behaviors. Learn more about abuse types and behaviors.

Why Do People Abuse?

Abuse is a learned behavior. Sometimes abusive partners may have experienced or witnessed abuse within their own families or communities growing up. Other times they learn it from friends, or see it on TV or in the movies.

There are some people who believe alcohol and drugs cause domestic violence in Indian Country. However, it’s important to know that while alcohol and drugs can escalate abuse, they do not cause abuse. Abuse is a choice.

Remember, domestic violence and dating violence stem from a desire to gain and maintain power and control over a partner. Abusive people think they have the right to control and restrict their partners.

No matter the reason a person chooses to abuse, domestic violence is not a Native tradition, and it is never okay.

How Can StrongHearts Help?

If you are or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call the StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-762-8483), available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST, seven days a week, for support. We take calls from Native Americans who are experiencing domestic violence or dating violence in their relationship, concerned family members and friends, and from anyone seeking help for someone else. Advocates are available for free and can provide lifesaving tools and immediate support to help you find options and safety when you’re ready to reach out.

If you are not yet ready to reach out, we encourage you to explore our website for more information and educational resources to help you on your healing journey. Wherever you are in your situation, remember: you are not alone. We are here for you, no matter what.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Lucille

    (Admin note: This comment has been modified for safety reasons.)

    I think this should be in every paper, news report and social media in the world. Great Job!!!! Respectfully, L.

  • T. C.

    I work at Youth treatment facility and think this would be very helpful. This is important information that ALL youth need to know.

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