StrongHearts Native Helpline marks four-year anniversary

StrongHearts Native Helpline is a collaborative effort of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
Photo Credit: StrongHearts Native Helpline

StrongHearts Native Helpline celebrated their four-year anniversary on Saturday, March 6. Despite the unprecedented hardships of 2020, the team at StrongHearts grew in number and strength and added many advocacy services to help Native Americans and Alaska Natives affected by domestic, dating and sexual violence. 

Over the past year, the pandemic destabilized the work environment just as StrongHearts Native Helpline advocates began to gear up and increase advocacy. The pandemic created an urgency to meet the needs of Native Americans and Alaska Natives who already suffer the highest rates of domestic, dating and sexual violence in the United States. 

“Not only did we meet our goals and deadlines, but we also navigated through the pandemic by transitioning into a fully remote operation,” said StrongHearts Director Lori Jump (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians). “The team at StrongHearts demonstrated an unwavering commitment to provide culturally-appropriate advocacy to victim-survivors across the nation.” 

In February 2020, the first round of new hires brought in eight additional positions when the StrongHearts administrators stepped up advocate training to include and enable online chat advocacy. Advocates were prepared and successfully implemented chat advocacy in May of 2020. This new method of contact resulted in increased accessibility for individuals who may be hearing impaired and/or those who are uncomfortable with calling the helpline or unable to vocalize a call for support. 

In the first part of 2020, when the pandemic was taking hold of the American public, StrongHearts saw a drop in the number of callers. However, StrongHearts’ online presence continued to grow demonstrated by an increase in the number of people navigating the website and social media impressions. 

“We suspect that the increased need was still there, but the pandemic created yet another obstacle to safety by requiring victims to shelter-in-place with their abuser,” said StrongHearts Communications Manager CC Hovie (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians). “Instead, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in online activities as Native American victim-survivors continued to seek support.” 

StrongHearts also initiated a mass marketing campaign to create awareness and a greater presence in Native communities. Meanwhile, the number of contacts continued to grow when administrators again amped up their training modules to include sexual violence advocacy that was launched in August 2020. 

Sexual violence advocacy is a component that addresses the horrific rates of sexual violence in Native communities. In fact, Native Americans suffer the highest rates of sexual violence among all ethnicities, all genders and age groups. Sadly, the vast majority of perpetrators are non-Native which lends support to the belief that sexual violence is an extension of colonization that began with European contact. 

In November of 2020, StrongHearts received its 10,000th call. December saw nine additional staff members that included more advocates and a chief financial officer. These new employees were hired to gear up for around-the-clock hours of operation. 

“The most ambitious year to date was navigated without a stumble. We kept up with our benchmarks and met our deadlines,” said Lori Jump. “We will continue to strive to meet the needs of our people and all who reach out to us for help.” 

 By the Numbers  

In 2020, StrongHearts advocates answered 3,074 calls and 406 chats. The types of abuse disclosed by Native intimate partner violence (IPV) victims are broken down into six categories and listed in order of prevalence. 

  • 87% Emotional Abuse 
  • 78% Physical Abuse 
  • 31% Financial Abuse 
  • 19% Digital Abuse 
  • 19% Sexual Abuse 
  • 10% Cultural Abuse 

 Prevalent Issues 

Native IPV victims are facing many hardships that further complicate domestic, dating and sexual violence. 

In order of prevalence, victims identified having the following issues. 

  • 54% Experience abuse at the hands of a non-Native partner 
  • 39% Disclosed they or their abusive partner have child dependents 
  • 12% Native victim-survivors have been strangled by their abusive partner 
  • 12% Disclosed being stalked 
  • 11% Disclosed experiencing cultural abuse 
  • 7% Native victim-survivors say their abuser has access to a firearm 

Disparities in Shelters and Provider Services 

The truth is that Native peoples have long been ignored and have suffered unimaginable abuse without remedy. The disparities in the number of Native vs. non-Native shelters and service providers demonstrate the shortfall of Native specific resources. 

  • Compared to the 1,544 non-Native shelters across the nation, there are only 56 specifically for Native peoples.  
  • There are 3,643 non-Native service providers across the nation, compared to only 257 that provide services specifically for Native peoples.  While Native peoples suffer some of the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence, the lack of Native-centered resources continues to be a major hurdle. At StrongHearts, we know that finding a culturally specific resource can be hard which is why we exist. As a culturally appropriate, confidential service for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, StrongHearts advocates offer emotional support, safety planning, crisis intervention and referrals to Native-centered resources. Call 1-844-762-8483 or for one-on-one chat advocacy visit 24/7 days a week. 

 StrongHearts Native Helpline is a 24/7 culturally appropriate domestic, dating and sexual violence helpline for Native Americans, available by calling 1-844-762-8483 or clicking on the Chat Now icon on StrongHearts Native Helpline is a collaborative effort of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. 

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