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Help Recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month This October

Join 2020 #NativeDVAM Campaign

In recognition of the upcoming efforts to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) invites survivors of violence, Tribal governments and communities, programs, and advocates to participate in this year’s push for awareness of this critical issue impacting Native communities across the country.

American Indians and Alaska Natives face some of the highest rates of domestic violence and often go without supportive services for safety, justice and healing. Native women are the targets of violent crimes, including domestic violence, rape, and murder, at much higher rates than other groups. Domestic violence affects everyone, especially those in the home including children. Because of failed responses, children are often the first responders and protectors of their mothers from violence. To keep Native children safe, we must protect their mothers from domestic violence.

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. We must hold space for Native survivors of domestic violence by listening to, believing, and supporting them on their journey to healing. Our Indigenous values, reflected in Native languages and teachings, remind us that women are sacred.

Domestic violence is not traditional, and it violates the very essence of who Native people are. As relatives, we are responsible for ensuring women are safe and respected. Be a good relative by supporting and protecting Native women.

What is Domestic Violence?

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. This violence ends when we reclaim Indigenous values of respect and compassion, and we honor the sacredness of women and children.

What is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM)?

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. She 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 develops resources to support tribal grassroots efforts during DVAM.

What is Tillie Black Bear 'Women Are Sacred' Day?

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 asking for your help to declare October 1 as Tillie Black Bear ‘Women Are Sacred’ Day. Sign on here.

How Can I Get Involved?

NIWRC strongly encourages everyone to join the national organizing efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence and to help protect Native women and children by holding offenders accountable. Together, we can restore our Indigenous societies, which are grounded in our values and relationships as relatives. Encourage your Tribal leadership, community programs and organizations, and families and friends to speak out against domestic violence and show support for survivors of violence.

The current COVID-19 situation gives us an opportunity to consider new ways of connecting and organizing to keep our relatives safe. We encourage social distancing and wearing masks for any in-person events.

Find resources and save-the-date for upcoming virtual events!

Thank you for supporting, participating, and leading efforts in your communities to raise awareness for survivors of domestic violence. We see you and honor you. Your work is valued and critical to ensuring the safety of Native women everywhere.

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. niwrc.org