American Indian and Alaskan Native children suffer exposure to violence at higher rates than any other racial group in the United States (U.S Department of Justice). They also experience post-traumatic stress disorder 3 times the rate of the general population, the same as soldiers coming back from Afghanistan (U.S. Department of Justice). It is critical that there are programs set in place that are knowledgable in working with children and youth who are exposed to violence.
In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.
TTA for OVW Tribal Governments Grantees
Red Wind provides technical assistance and training to assist grantees in working with Children and Youth.
Providing a framework for providing advocacy responses to children and youth exposed to violence and youth victims,
Conducting education and outreach,
Build meaningful responses that build on protective factors and systems engagement.
Developing and enhancing their responses to teens and tweens, and
Responding in ways to protect the bond between the non-offending parent and strengthening a child’s resiliency.
Activities include one-to-one consultation through phone and email, webinars, on-site training/work sessions, and Bi-annual National Conference. More information . . .
You have to look deeper, way below the anger, the hurt, the hate, the jealousy, the self-pity, way down deeper where the dreams lie, son. Find your dream. It’s the pursuit of the dream that heals you.
Children make up 31% of the American Indian/Alaskan Native population (www.nicwa.org). AI/AN children can face many adversities in their lifetime. It is important that our communities promote resiliency amongst children. Because children and youth are exposed to violence and suffer from trauma at extremely high rates effecting the health and wellbeing of the child, it is important to have supportive nurturing adults involved in their life. Edleson and Nissley explain that: “Protective adults, including the child’s mother, relatives, neighbors and teachers, older siblings, and friends may all play protective roles in a child’s life.” (2015). They also explain that as a child’s resources grow, the problems they may face can decrease and counteract the effects of exposure to domestic violence (Edlseon & Nissley, 2015).
Resiliency relies on nurturing adults in a child’s life, so it is important to support and maintain a child’s relationship with the non-offending parent. It can be harmful to remove the child from their non-offending parent. Children need to be incorporated in safety planning as well as considered in the family’s needs: childcare, food, clothing and shelter for both women and children.
Connecting to healthy adults, positive peer relationships and participating in the community can create a sense of belonging and connectedness, which is crucial for becoming resilient. Being able to explore individual talents and interests encourages children to feel capable. Being involved in extra-curricular activities such as sports and the arts can provide an environment where there is a sense of solidarity and stability. It also provides an outlet to escape self-blame. It is very important to tell children and youth that the violence they were exposed to is not their fault.
It is important to note that victims with children may face challenges with many other systems such as Child Protection Services and Law Enforcement. As advocates, knowing how to work within these systems will be beneficial for women and their children to help support resiliency in children.
Violent crime rates in Indian Country are more than 2.5 times the national rate, and some reservations see more than 20 times the national rate (United States Department of Justice). The U.S. Department of Justice state that an average of 4.1 lifetime traumas have been reported, with the threat of injury and witnessing injury being the most common form of trauma exposure. With these alarming rates it is important to understand that it is likely that children exposed to violence at home are experiencing trauma and may suffer from long and short term effects of trauma.
The U.S. Department of Justice describes the long and short-term effects of exposure to violence: ▪ increased rates of altered brain development, ▪ poor physical and mental health, ▪ poor school performance, and ▪ substance abuse and overrepresentation in the juvenile justice system.
Frequent exposure to violence can intensify the above effects and lead to toxic stress reactions and severe trauma and is compounded with historical trauma (United States Department of Justice).
There are behaviors to watch for in children who may be exposed to violence according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: ▪ increased fear or anxiety, ▪ depression, ▪ loss of interest in school, friends, or other things they enjoyed in the past, ▪ sleep problems, including nightmares and bedwetting, ▪ increased aggression and anger, ▪ spending more time alone, ▪ fighting at home or at school, ▪ bullying or being bullied, and ▪ changes in appetite.
Behaviors to watch for in adolescents: ▪ drug or alcohol abuse, ▪ skipping school, ▪ changes in peer groups, ▪ new rebellious or oppositional behavior, ▪ declining grades, ▪ social withdrawal, and ▪ depression or anxiety loss of interest in school, friends or other things they enjoyed in the past.
Violence against Native women is an enormous problem across Indian country. Unfortunately Native youth experience violence as well and at alarming rates. Teen Dating Violence is the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking (CDC). 23% of girls and 14% of boys have experienced partner violence between ages 11-17 years old (CDC).
Experiencing dating violence is traumatic for teens as well as worrisome, as youth are developing an idea of what it means to be in a relationship and what to expect out of one. Violence experienced by teens may create a pattern for future relationships. 30% of battered women married someone who was abusive during dating (Praxis International, 2006).
Teens experience many obstacles when receiving help. For one, teens tend to minimize the seriousness of the violence in relationships (Foshee & Langwick, 2010). Teachers, Service workers and advocates must be aware of any hints the teen victim is subconsciously giving us. Teens also need the many resources to get out of violent relationships: there is a lack of youth shelters, programs that address teen dating violence, and transportation (Break the Cycle, 2008). Not only do teens face obstacles within social programs, they also face obstacles concerning the law. Some states do not consider dating violence as domestic violence, making it harder to get protection orders. It is even harder for LGBTIQQA teens as there are three states that do not allow victims of same sex dating violence to file for a protection order (Break the Cycle, 2008). Teens also face the challenge of seeing their perpetrator at school.
There are harmful results that can come from teen dating violence. 50% of teens who experience violence attempt suicide as opposed to 5-13% of non-abused teens (loveisrespect.org, 2015). Teen girls are six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) (loveisrespect.org, 2015).
24.5% of Native women have been stalked in their lifetime, which is nearly two times the national rate of 15.2%. The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know (Stalking Resource Center). Alarmingly, 50% of stalking victims were stalked before the age of 25 (Stalking Resource Center).
Native women living in smaller communities may fail to report to authorities out of fear that their stalker will find out, or that a police officer may know the stalker (Luna- Gordinier). Native women may lack the resources necessary for reporting stalking such as: transportation, a phone, and emergency shelters and services (Luna-Gordinier). Jurisdiction issues may also impact Native women living in rural areas because they may not know who can help them (Luna-Gordinier). Because stalking combined with Intimate Partner and Dating Violence poses a great risk of harm, it is important to identify when there is stalking (Stalking Resource Center, 2015).
American Indian and Alaskan Native communities are major centers for sex trafficking (Pierce and Kopplinger, 2011). In a Minnesota study, The Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minneosta, 20% of Native youth were homeless, making them more vulnerable to pimps. 75% of women interviewed for Garden of Truth engaged in prostitution in exchange for food, shelter or drugs (Farley, Matthews, Deer, Lopez, Stark & Hudon, 2011).
Native youth who are at risk/vulnerable of being recruited by pimps are: youth in desperate situations such as homelessness, extreme poverty; vulnerability due to disabilities, addictions, and a stigmatized gender identity (Pierce & Koepplinger; Farley et. al., 2011).
Recruitment is being done at schools, parties, youth programs and at the homes of relatives (Pierce and Koepplinger, 2011). Native women and girls are disproportionately impacted by prostitution (Falrey et. al., 2011).
Native teens are 3 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other racial group.
51% of reported sexual assaults in Indian Country are teenage girls.
Native teens are more likely to be sexually assaulted facilitated by drugs. The perpetrator uses a drug such as GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate), rohypnol (roofies), and ketamine, and places it in the victim’s drink. The victim will then be under the effects of the drug such: as blurred vision, memory loss, blackouts and physical incapacitation. Alcohol can also be used in a drug facilitated sexual assault.
According to Strong Hearted Native Women’s Coalition, Inc., sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes. Because teens may face peer pressure to not get the perpetrator in trouble as NICCSA explains, may also encourage the victim not to report.
Teens may also be the victim of child pornography. Dating partners may ask for pictures and as soon as they break up, they may share the photos. The victim is then re-victimization and re-traumatized each time the picture is sent to someone (NICCSA).
This project is supported by Grant No. 2014-TA-AX-K047 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.