Joint Statement: Listening to and Talking With Native Youth This Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Across Indian Country, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) is an important opportunity to listen to and talk with youth and teens about healthy relationships and dating violence. As Native people, relationships represent our sacred connections with each other, grounded in the traditional understanding that ‘we are all related.’ However, we also know relationships are challenging, especially for Native youth and teens that are exploring romantic relationships for the first time.

Through positive conversations with youth and teens centered at their core, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, NativeLove, StrongHearts Native Helpline, and the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center support the efforts of Tribal programs and Native organizations to empower the next generation in reclaiming and defining what safe, healthy, and strong relationships mean for them. We will continually encourage and support meaningful efforts by and for Native youth and teens, and uplift their voices in speaking out against dating violence. Youth are at the heart of our survival as Native peoples; Native youth and teens can lead the way for positive change. Everyone needs to take responsibility for being part of the change. Help honor youth and teens in your lives by raising awareness of dating violence and promoting healthy relationships!

As advocates, parents, and teachers, it is important we listen to and center the needs of Native youth, providing safe, nonjudgmental spaces for our young relatives to talk about dating violence and healthy relationships. We can provide guidance and support on traditional ways of caring for each other and teach Indigenous values of compassion, kindness, honor, and respect. Strengthening and balancing the relationships in our lives cannot be done alone––it is up to all of us to support and listen to the next generation. Advocates at StrongHearts Native Helpline 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) are also available to assist Native teens, parents, and advocates in navigating unhealthy relationships, and how to respond when someone in the relationship is abusive or violent. Violence against youth and teens affects us all. Nationally, nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year, and about 1 in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year.1 No one deserves to be abused in any way. No one has the right to be abusive. Romantic relationships should be grounded in respect, not based on power and control masked as love. Dating violence is not traditional. Our young relatives deserve healthy, respectful love and deserve–in a caring way–to be held accountable for any abusive behavior and taught how to be respectful and loving.

Below you will find more information about the signs of dating violence, what to do if a young relative is being abused, and resources to help get involved.

Dating Violence, Defined

Dating violence is a type of relationship violence that is defined as when a person uses a pattern of abusive behavior toward their partner to gain power and control over them. Dating violence can include one or more types of abuse, and it can look like when a partner:

  • Physical abuse: pushes, shakes, slaps, kicks, or spits on you. Holds you down. Throws or breaks your personal belongings (ex. books, cell phone, etc.)
  • Emotional abuse: insults you, calls you hurtful names or embarrasses you in public. Constantly accuses you of cheating. Threatens to hurt you or expose secrets about you.
  • Sexual abuse: unwanted kissing or touching, pressures you to have sex or makes you feel guilty for not wanting to have sex, or demands that you send them sexually explicit photos or videos.
  • Digital abuse: constantly tracks you online, calls, texts, or DMs you to find out where you are or who you’re with, tells you who you can be friends with on social media, or sends mean messages on social media either directly from them or anonymously.
  • Cultural/Spiritual abuse: Criticizes your spiritual or Tribal beliefs.
  • Financial abuse: Steals money from you, your family, or your friends.

Some signs of dating violence can include when a partner:

  • Acts extremely jealous or possessive of you
  • Follows you home or to school, or shows up wherever you are unannounced
  • Is annoyed or upset when you spend time on the phone with other people
  • Tells you who you can or cannot be friends with
  • Starts rumors or threatens to start rumors about you
  • Excessively texts you or sends nonstop DMs
  • Forces you to give them your passwords to email, social media sites, your phone, etc.
  • Distances you from your family or friends
  • Wants you to stop participating in activities you enjoy
  • Checks your phone for who texts or calls you
  • Tags you in hurtful social media memes, posts, or pictures
  • Criticizes your dreams, goals, family, or friends
  • Tells you what to wear or how to dress
  • Explodes in anger toward you or acts aggressively when they’re upset
  • Kisses, grabs, or touches your body without your permission
  • Forces you to take sexually explicit photos or videos
  • Threatens to hurt themselves or commit suicide if you don’t do what they want

If you know a young relative that is being abused:

  • Create a safe space and tell them you’re concerned about their safety.
  • Be a good relative and listen to their story when they’re ready to share.
  • If you or your young relative need to talk, contact StrongHearts Native Helpline 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483), a 24/7 safe, confidential and anonymous domestic, dating and sexual violence helpline for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, offering culturally-appropriate support and advocacy.
  • Center their sense of autonomy and control.
  • Honor how they identify themselves.
  • Talk about consent. Ask “what does consent mean to you?”
  • Ask how you can help them.
  • Remember to safety plan around digital issues and technology.
  • Offer support and encourage their strength and courage.
  • Share resources available online or locally from your community.
  • Learn about dating violence and the signs of relationship abuse.
  • Avoid confronting the abusive person hurting your loved one. It can escalate the situation and put your young relative in danger.

Helpful Resources and Activities:

About the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center:

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. (NIWRC) is a Native-led nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against Native women and children. NIWRC provides national leadership in ending gender-based violence in tribal communities by lifting up the collective voices of grassroots advocates and offering culturally grounded resources, technical assistance and training, and policy development to strengthen tribal sovereignty.

About StrongHearts Native Helpline:

StrongHearts Native Helpline was created by and built to serve Indigenous communities across the United States. It is a culturally-appropriate, anonymous, confidential and free service dedicated to serving Native American and Alaska Native survivors and concerned family members and friends affected by domestic, dating and sexual violence. Advocates are available 24/7 by texting or calling 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) or via online chat at Connect with knowledgeable advocates who can provide lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable survivors to find safety and live lives free of abuse. StrongHearts Native Helpline is a proud partner of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Learn more at

About the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center:

Organized in 2015, the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC) is a tribal nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against women with Alaska’s 229 tribes and allied organizations. AKNWRC board members and staff are Alaska Native women raised in Alaska Native Villages and have over 250 years of combined experience in tribal governments, nonprofit management, domestic violence, and sexual assault advocacy (both individual crisis and systems and grassroots social change advocacy at the local, statewide, regional, national and international levels), and other social services experience. AKNWRC’s philosophy is that violence against women is rooted in the colonization of indigenous nations and thus dedicated to strengthening local, tribal government’s responses through community organizing efforts advocating for the safety of women and children in their communities and homes against domestic and sexual abuse and violence.