StrongHearts Native Helpline encourages awareness related to Teen Dating Violence

Photo: Sidney Sims

As Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month comes to a close, StrongHearts Native Helpline asserts “Our young relatives deserve safe and healthy relationships”

As the month of February comes to a close, the StrongHearts Native Helpline — a free, culturally-appropriate, anonymous and confidential service dedicated to serving Native American survivors of domestic violence and dating violence — is encouraging Native teens to be aware of teen dating violence as well as resources that exist in order to promote healthy relationships.

“Our young relatives deserve safe and healthy relationships,” said organizers of StrongHearts to Indian Country Today in an email. “Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, also known as Teen DVAM, is observed in February as a national effort to raise awareness and prevent dating violence in teen and young people’s relationships and to promote healthy relationships.”

According to statistics on teen violence among Native American and Alaska Native youth compiled by the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center:

More than 40 percent of Native children experience two or more acts of violence by the age of 18.

A 1992 Minnesota youth study found that ninety-two percent of American Indian girls who reported having sexual intercourse have been forced against their will to have sex.

The teen dating violence rate among high school students in Alaska’s Native communities was 13.3 percent, compared to the national average of 9.8 percent.

Alaskan high school students were more likely to have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse in their lives than other U.S. student (10.1% versus 7.4%).

Twenty-five percent of Native children that are exposed to violence have PTSD at a higher rate than that found in US soldiers returning home from Afghanistan.

American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one in three Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.

Nearly half of all Native American women have been raped, beaten, or stalked by an intimate partner, and one in three will be raped in their lifetime.

On some reservations, Native women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than the national average.

In addition to the statistics offered by StrongHearts, the organization also offered comments on specific topics related to teen dating violence from the staff. The comments were as follows:

The extent of teen dating violence in our Native communities.

“The rate of dating violence for teens is heartbreaking. Across the country, about a third of youth ages 10 to 19 have faced physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are dating, and nearly one in 10 teens reported being physically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the last year. For Indian country in particular, we know that more than 40 percent of Native children experience two or more acts of violence by the age of 18. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found the rate of teen dating violence for high school students in Alaska Native communities is 13.3 percent, which is higher than the national average. That is unacceptable.”

– Lori Jump (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa), Assistant Director of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

What teen dating violence looks like in abusive relationships, including harassment through cell phones and texting.

“Teen dating violence is relationship abuse that takes place between teens and young adults. It can include physical abuse, such as slapping, kicking, strangling or punching. It can also include emotional abuse, such as name-calling or using slurs like ‘dirty squaw’ or hurtful stereotypes like ‘you drunk Native’ to put you down. Emotional abuse might also look like being isolated from family or friends or when your boyfriend or girlfriend makes all of the decisions in the relationship. An abuser might criticize or punish you for your cultural traditions or beliefs, tell you that you’re ‘not Native enough,’ or misrepresent your cultural beliefs to make you do something you don’t want to do. Sexual abuse as a form of dating violence is another big issue. An abusive partner might demand sexually explicit photos or videos from you, or pressure or force you to have sex against your will. Anytime a dating partner forces you into sexual activity without your consent, that is sexual assault, and that’s never okay.”

– Mallory Black (Diné), Communications Manager of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

“In some relationships, the abusive partner may use technology through phones and social media to hurt their girlfriend or boyfriend. The signs of digital abuse can include when your partner tags you in humiliating photos, reveals private or embarrassing information about you, or tracks where you go and what you do online. Some abusive partners may even tell you who you can or cannot be friends with on social media or demand to know your social media or phone passwords. An abusive partner may use their cell phones to repeatedly call, text, or leave messages just to ‘check in’ – all of which are signs of digital abuse.”

– Mallory Black (Diné), Communications Manager of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

Why any form of teen dating violence should be considered serious.

“Navigating the dating world can be challenging for anyone, but especially for our young people. What can begin as a pattern of teasing or name-calling between a boyfriend or girlfriend can escalate into more harmful behavior down the road. That’s why it’s important to watch for certain behaviors when you’re getting to know someone. Moving too fast in the relationship, constantly calling or texting your partner, or even someone seeming “too good to be true” can be red flags in a relationship.”

– Lori Jump (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa), Assistant Director of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

“It’s important to recognize how you’re feeling in the relationship, too, so trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right in your relationship, reach out to a parent, friend or someone you trust to ask for help. You may also consider calling us at the StrongHearts Native Helpline. We take calls from teens, young adults, parents or anyone wanting to know more about how they can help. It’s always free and confidential for anyone who reaches out to us.”

– Mallory Black (Diné), Communications Manager of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

“When you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, you may feel anxious, depressed, fearful, guilty or ashamed. You may even begin to believe you have done something to deserve the abuse. No matter the reason for the abuse, dating violence is not our traditional way, and it is never okay. At every age, you should always feel safe and respected in your relationships.”

– Lori Jump (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa), Assistant Director of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

How StrongHearts advocates can help if you are concerned that a young relative is facing teen dating violence.

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“Some of the warning signs that a young one is in an abusive relationship could include noticeable changes in their personality like depression or anxiety, unexplained marks or injuries, or recognizing they have stopped spending time with friends and family. Your young relative might even make excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend’s behavior when they act jealous, possessive or are put down in front of you.”

– Lori Jump (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa), Assistant Director of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

“It can be hard to know what to say or do when a young one is being abused by their boyfriend or girlfriend. If you are wanting to talk with your teen or youth, we encourage you to call us at 1-844-7NATIVE – that’s 1-844-762-8483, to speak with an advocate who can help you navigate this conversation together. We are here to talk about red flags and dating violence, what a healthy relationship looks like, and can refer you to helpful resources created by Natives, for Natives. StrongHearts is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central time. It’s always safe and confidential when you call.”

– Lori Jump (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa), Assistant Director of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

“If you are being hurt by your boyfriend or girlfriend, talk to a friend or relative you can trust about what’s happening in your relationship. Advocates at the StrongHearts Native Helpline are here for you as well. You can call us for free at 1-844-7NATIVE - that’s 1-844-762-8483 - if you need to talk. Our advocates are not here to be negative or judge you. We are here to listen and help teens, parents or anyone wanting to know more about relationships and dating violence.”

– Lori Jump (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa), Assistant Director of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

About StrongHearts Native Helpline

The StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-7NATIVE) is a free, culturally-appropriate, anonymous and confidential service dedicated to serving Native American survivors of domestic violence and dating violence that the media can share with viewers, listeners and readers as a critical resource. Trained with an understanding of tribal cultures, sovereignty and law, advocates are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST, providing peer-to-peer support, validation, assistance with safety planning, and a connection to local resources. After hours calls may choose to connect with the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

For more information, visit www.strongheartshelpline.org.

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