Domestic Violence Awareness

NIWRC supports the continual efforts of survivors, tribes, grassroots advocates, and communities to increase awareness of and action on domestic violence, a critical issue impacting Native communities across the United States. American Indian and Alaska Native women face some of the highest rates of domestic violence (DV) in the country and often go without supportive services for safety, justice, and healing. Native women are the targets of violent crimes including domestic violence at much higher rates than other groups. Domestic violence affects everyone in the home, including children.

Domestic violence is not traditional to Native cultures, and it violates the very essence of who Native people are. This violence ends when we reclaim Indigenous values of respect and compassion, and we honor the sacredness of women and children. As relatives, it is our responsibility to speak out against domestic violence and ensure the voices of Native survivors are heard. Offenders must be stopped and held accountable. Hold space for Native survivors of domestic violence by listening to, believing, and supporting them on their journey to healing. Be a good relative by protecting and respecting Native women.

Domestic violence is one or multiple types of abuse, such as physical, emotional/verbal, sexual, financial, cultural, spiritual, or digital abuse aimed at a relative. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a form of domestic violence that happens when a current or former spouse or intimate partner engages in a repetitive, fear-inducing pattern of abuse toward their partner to maintain power and control in a relationship. This pattern of abuse can take place in relationships where couples are dating, married, living together, have a child together, or after the relationship has ended. The vast majority of victims of IPV are women with primarily male offenders. In Indigenous societies, violence is not traditional. Colonization imposes and promotes the domination and ownership of Native women by men, as reflected in violence against Native women seen throughout history since contact, which has laid the foundation for present-day violence. 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). NCADV was originally founded in 1978 to provide advocacy and resources for victims of domestic violence with Tillie Black Bear (Sicangu Lakota) serving as a founding mother and board member. Tillie was also a founding mother of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed, and Congress later designated October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 1989. Three themes remain a strong focus of DVAM events today: mourning those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived, and connecting those who work to end violence. Each year, NIWRC continually develops culturally-grounded DVAM materials and resources to support tribal grassroots efforts.

Fact Sheet: Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men

Tool: Intimate Partner Violence Triangle

Tool: Equality Wheel

Template: Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation

Social Media Cards: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Brochure: Safety Guide

Podcast: History of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

StrongHearts Native Helpline: Domestic, dating and sexual violence helpline for American Indians and Alaska Natives (1-844-762-8483), anonymous and confidential

Customizable Resource: Bumper Stickers and Posters

Sticker: DVAM Ribbon

Patches: DVAM Ribbon and Women Are Sacred Turtle

Tillie Black Bear (Sicangu Lakota), Wa Wokiye Win (Woman Who Helps Everyone) gave hope and healing to generations of Native advocates and inspired allies by helping to lead the initial organizing of the Violence Against Women Movement on a national level. Considered a grandmother of the grassroots movement for the safety of Native women, Tillie stressed the importance of tribal cultures, stories and traditions to address violence in our communities. To honor and celebrate Tillie’s life and work, NIWRC is working to declare October 1st as Tillie Black Bear ‘Women Are Sacred’ Day. Sign on here.