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Why Do People Abuse?

Abuse is a learned behavior. Sometimes people see it within their own families or communities growing up. Other times they learn it from friends or see it on TV or in the movies.

However, abuse is a choice, and it’s not one that anyone has to make. Many people who experience or witness abuse as children make the decision not to use hurtful behaviors in their adult relationships.

There are some people who think alcohol or drugs are to blame for the high rates of domestic violence and dating violence in Indian Country. It is important to recognize that while drugs or alcohol can sometimes escalate abuse, they do not cause abuse.

Domestic violence and dating violence stem from a desire to gain and maintain power and control over a partner. Abusive people think they have the right to control and restrict their partners. They may also enjoy the feeling that exerting power gives them.

No matter the reason a person chooses to abuse, domestic violence is not our tradition, and it is never okay.

How do I know if I'm Abusive?

At StrongHearts Native Helpline, advocates are trained to speak with people who are concerned about their behavior or may identify as abusive. Every caller is treated with dignity and respect.

StrongHearts is available to all of our relatives, including those who are concerned about their behavior. We support anyone who wants to take responsibility for their actions. Every call from someone who is beginning to recognize their unhealthy behavior is an opportunity to begin healing.

If you’re looking for someone to speak with about your concerns, StrongHearts advocates are a great option. We will listen without judgment and can help you figure out what’s going on in your relationship. Acknowledging the abuse is the first step toward healing.**


Note: At StrongHearts, we do not recommend couples counseling or anger management for abusers to learn about and stop their abusive patterns. However, these can oftentimes helpfully supplement a batterer intervention program once the person who uses abuse has successfully completed a batterer intervention program and has demonstrated a significant reduction in using abusive tactics.

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Uncover the roots of Native American domestic, dating and sexual violence.

Test your knowledge about domestic violence.

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Abuse isn't always physical. Read more about the different types of abuse.

If a violent encounter seems imminent and unavoidable, there are a few options to consider to keep you safe.

There are several types of abuse. People in abusive relationships often experience more than one type of abuse.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, disability, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or economic background.

Anyone can be in serious danger if their abusive partner has a gun.

In most abusive relationships the tactics of an abusive partner will escalate over time.

Using alcohol can strain a relationship but it is not the cause of domestic violence.

Read Michelle’s story to learn how a sense of false responsibility can impact a victim-survivor.

For Native American children who are exposed to domestic violence or even the threat of violence/abuse, there is an increased risk of psychological, social, emotional and behavioral problems.

An often overlooked group of Native American victim-survivors of domestic violence are those with disabilities.

Store the preparedness kit outside of the home either with a trusted neighbor, friend or relative or keep it in a secret location where you can safely retrieve it.

A victim-survivor can develop mental health issues like depression over the course of the relationship, putting them at greater risk for suicide.