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What you might not know about Native American women, domestic violence

Posted Oct. 24, 2013, at 2:28 p.m.
OpArt: Danby | BDN

Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides an opportunity for all of us to gain a better understanding of domestic violence and its prevalence, so we can better respond to and prevent it. The extent of domestic violence in Maine probably won’t surprise many — as we often read in this paper about domestic violence arrests and, sadly, deaths all too often.

But you still may be surprised that:

  • Every nine seconds a woman in America is battered by her intimate partner.
  • One in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetime and one in four will be battered by their intimate partner.
  • Native Americans are victims of all forms of violence, including domestic violence, at a rate higher than any other racial group.
  • Most perpetrators of domestic violence on Native women are non-Native men.
  • Domestic violence is the No. 1 cause of injury to women age 15 and older.
  • Domestic violence-related health costs exceed $5.8 billion annually.
  • In addition to injuries sustained during violent episodes, physical and psychological abuse are linked to a number of adverse physical health outcomes, including arthritis, chronic neck or back pain, migraine and other frequent headaches, chronic pelvic pain, stomach ulcers and many more.
  • Homicide is the leading cause of traumatic death for pregnant and postpartum women in the U.S.

For all these reasons, and many more, we need to do better. We need to do more. We need everyone in every community to take a personal stake in this societal problem. Everyone of us can do something: speak out, reach out, volunteer, donate resources, get involved.

The health cost in dollars and broken spirits and bodies should not, must not, be ignored. This is a call out to every hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, dentist, behavioral health counselor, health care provider and clinician to do something.

There are five tribal communities in Maine: Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township, Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, and the Penobscot Indian Nation. Each of the five tribal communities has a domestic violence advocacy program. These five tribal advocacy programs have come together to form a tribal domestic and sexual violence coalition — the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition, Inc.

The mission of the WWC is “to increase the capacity of tribal communities to respond to domestic and sexual violence, and influence Tribal, National and Regional systems to increase awareness, safety, justice and healing for all our relations.” The coalition programming assists each of the tribal communities to do more to respond to domestic and sexual violence by providing training and education to first responders and health care providers.

The Wabanaki Women’s Coalition is eager to be at the table with other local, state and national stakeholders to be part of the solution to end domestic and sexual violence against all our relations.

You can show your support by wearing a purple ribbon (the color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month) and talking with your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers about what you and they can do. Do something!

Jane Root is director of the Maliseet Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy Center in Houlton.

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