October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month across the country, but October 3 marked the 5th Annual American Indian Domestic Violence Awareness Day of Unity.
The Day of Unity aims to bring together tribes to talk about a common problem, and this year’s goal is to change a culture of violence to one of respect.
Members of more than a dozen tribes showed up to the Reynolds Wellness Center in Seminole to raise awareness about some shocking statistics. The Native Alliance Against Violence reports that more than 85% of Native women have been victims of domestic abuse, far more than any other group.
“We’re saying take that violence that occurred in your life and let’s change it and work towards the good of stopping violence, speaking against it and supporting victims,” says NAAV executive director Dawn Stover.
A panel of survivors shared their stories with the group, revealing how hard it has been to break from a generational cycle.
“I was sort of advised by the women in my family that this was a choice that I had made and I needed to try harder,” one survivor recalled.
Even when they did seek help, the speakers remember how their partners attacked their credibility.
“When my husband came into the sheriff’s office, he looked at me and said, ‘I have no idea what happened to her. It’s probably those people she hangs out with,’” another survivor says.
There are currently 25 tribes with victim advocacy programs to combat domestic violence, and that number is growing.
Organizers for this event know it will not happen overnight, but they hope to inspire the Native community and beyond to believe victims when they ask for help and push for more accountability for their abusers.
Stover says, “Whether you’re a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, sex trafficking, you’re never to blame for the violence that occurred to you.”
If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic violence, please call the Oklahoma State Safeline at 800-522-SAFE (7233). Representatives can connect you with nearby resources and a plan to escape a dangerous situation.
Editor’s Note: News 9 is part of a local initiative that brings all of our local media outlets together to give Oklahoma a United Voice in promoting a healthy dialogue on race. To see more stories, visit UnitedVoiceOK.org.