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StrongHearts Native Helpline Receives 10,000th Call

by Ericca Hovie

StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-7NATIVE) announced 10,000 callers have now reached out to the helpline for safe, confidential support and resources for domestic, dating and sexual violence.

“This is an important milestone in our work to support victim-survivors seeking healing,” said StrongHearts Director Lori Jump (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians).

Since March 2017, StrongHearts Native Helpline has offered a culturally-appropriate helpline for Native American and Alaska Native victim-survivors, their relatives and friends, service providers and those questioning their own abusive behavior. StrongHearts is a collaborative effort of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, calls took a slight dip as more people were forced to shelter-in-place with abusive partners. Native victim-survivors were more isolated than ever and struggled to have a safe opportunity to reach out for help. In response, StrongHearts added online chat advocacy and adjusted its marketing strategy to reach more Native Americans and Alaska Natives. As a result, calls and chats have increased as more people realize that StrongHearts is here to help.

“We honor the bravery that victim-survivors possess for reaching out to StrongHearts during these exceptionally difficult times,” said Jump. Diverse advocates (LGBTQ2S+, male, female, young, elders, etc.) navigate each caller’s situation with safety, compassion and respect. Advocates take calls from anyone who is impacted by violence and needs help.

Created by and for Native Americans, StrongHearts is uniquely equipped to serve a population facing some of the highest rates of domestic violence in the United States. According to StrongHearts’ data, the severity of victims’ experiences is telling: more than 7 out of 10 victim-survivor callers reported experiencing more than one type of abuse (70%), including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, digital abuse, cultural abuse, and other complex situations. Nearly half of callers experiencing violence reported a child being involved in their situation (38%). The top service requested by victim-survivors was peer support. Referrals to shelters was the second most requested service.

Tribes, even as sovereign nations, face significant jurisdictional hurdles when addressing domestic violence in their communities. Gaps in culturally-based supportive services create unique barriers for Native victims seeking help.

In 2016, the National Institute of Justice released a study indicating more than one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women and men had experienced violence within the past year. Of those who had experienced violence, a third of Native women and one in six Native men were unable to access the supportive services they needed.

“More than four in five Native Americans experience violence in their lifetime,” said Jump, revealing a critical need for a national resource for Native American and Alaska Natives like StrongHearts as well as more Native-centered service providers in Indian Country and Alaska Native communities.

“We will continue to be here for all of our relatives who are impacted by these issues,” said Jump.

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