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When the Legal System Fails You

 In Abusive Behaviors, Domestic Violence in Indian Country, Legal Help, Native centered advocacy, Services for Native Survivors, Trust and Respect

The criminal justice process is intended to protect, right the wrongs, and deter perpetrators from wrongdoing. But, all too often, our legal systems fail to address domestic violence or dating violence crimes, leaving survivors of violence without remedy, or even worse, feeling punished for seeking justice.

This often leaves survivors asking ‘Why?’ or ‘What now?’.  At StrongHearts, we often hear from callers that they have no access to justice, no protections and no assurance of safety. We hear from callers that their lives remain out of balance and that relying on mainstream systems of justice result is a traumatic experience.

As a survivor, what can you do?

First, know that you are not alone in your experience. If the criminal justice system has failed to meet your needs, remember that you have options to pursue civil remedies, including orders of protection and restitution. You also may have options seeking justice through tribal court, both civil and criminal. These options should be explored fully if you wish to continue engaging with the legal system, but do not wish to engage with the state and/or federal system.

If you choose to use the legal system, we strongly recommend reaching out to a legal services agency or attorney. If cost is a concern or if you need help finding a legal resource, our advocates at StrongHearts (1-844-762-8483) may be able to provide culturally-appropriate options in your area.

StrongHearts advocates are not legal experts, but we recognize that knowing and understanding your options is vital. Our goal is to identify helpful resources such as legal services and connect you with the right people.  Here’s what you can expect when you call us.

We understand many survivors may not want to make their issues public in their communities through the tribal court system. You may want to consider your tribe’s restorative justice options. Restorative justice, an indigenous form of justice, is an approach that can offer survivors more autonomy in making their own decision’s in the process itself. If needed, StrongHearts advocates can help explain the process and help you find available resources in your area.

If the legal system is not an option or is no longer your preferred option, you may be interested in exploring resources to help you with the trauma aspects of your experiences by considering the following:

  • Locate a counselor or therapist who can help you with the emotional health effects associated with abuse (ex. anxiety, depression, etc.)
  • Speak with an elder or traditional healer for support
  • Reach out to a spiritual leader or find a group with a spiritual basis
  • Lean on your support system (ex. family, friends, community advocates, etc.)

When you are ready, it can be helpful to find ways to acknowledge and heal from the underlying trauma associated with abuse and any trauma you may have suffered by engaging in various legal systems. In this way, we hope to help our callers find safety and healing.

Whatever method you choose, it is important to StrongHearts Native Helpline that you explore and decide what is best for your situation. We are here to provide education and information to meet your needs.  You are in the best position to know what is right for you, and we are here when you are ready to take this step.


If you want to learn more about your options, call the StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central time to get help. Callers after hours will have the option to connect with the National Domestic Violence Hotline or to call back on the next business day. 

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