October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and this week StrongHearts Native Helpline services have officially become available nationwide. The helpline is specifically for Alaska Native and Native American survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Natives nationwide are “two and half times more likely to experience violent crimes and five times more likely to be the victims of homicide in their lifetimes,” according to a recent National Institute of Justice study quoted in a press release from the StrongHearts Native Helpline this week.
The Helpline, which was created by Native Americans, launched nationwide in March of this year. Since then, the national crisis helpline has sought to bolster its resources for rural indigenous communities, like those of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
StrongHearts representative Mallory Black, a member of the Navajo Nation herself, says that the helpline provides “culturally relevant, safe, and confidential resources,” for Alaska Natives and Native Americans.
“We can provide someone to talk to when you don’t have many people to turn to in your community,” said Black. “We can provide a Native advocate who comes from our communities, who understands the nuances of living in a rural Alaska Native village or can connect you with locally available resources.”
Initially, the StrongHearts Helpline service launched in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. It has rapidly grown through its referral network over the past eight months. Coordinating with tribal communities, domestic violence programs, and other supportive resources, Black says that the project's culturally tailored support can be effective.
“Our advocates are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Alaska Time,” said Black. “Our phone number is 1-844-7-N-A-T-I-V-E (1-844-762-8483).”
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, or NIWRC, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline are partners with StrongHearts Native Helpline. The organizations are making a joint effort to lead the charge in beginning to address the country's long-overlooked crisis of violence against Alaska Native and Native American victims of domestic assault.
It’s because of this that Tundra Women’s Coalition Executive Director Eileen Arnold says that it is important to add this hotline to the list of available resources for crisis response.
“And I think it’s going to attract certain people to hear, like, ‘Wow, like, a national native hotline.’ I think that’s going to attract some people and sort of make that safer,” said Arnold. “If it’s national, the chances of you talking to someone you might know or might be related to are lessened.”
In terms of other resources that provide indigenous cultural perspectives around healing from domestic violence, Arnold says that the Healthy Families courses provided by YKHC, ONC, and AVCP are great resources, but that they all focus on what happens further down the line from the crisis.
“I do think we should have more crisis response available, but we’re limited right now,” said Arnold. “You know, the state of Alaska budgets are tight, so I don’t foresee any growth right now, which is another reason why this new resource is so excellent.”
Resources for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta:
StrongHearts Native Helpline: 1-844-7-N-A-T-I-V-E or (1-844) 762-8483
Tundra Women’s Coalition: (Crisis Line) 1-800-478-7799, & (907) 543-3456
Emmonak Women's Shelter: (907) 949-1443
Healthy Families Center: (907) 543-6000