StrongHearts Native Helpline provides advocacy, referral services to abuse survivors

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Former Reporter
04/09/2018 08:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The StrongHearts Native Helpline is for survivors of dating and domestic abuse and can be reached by calling 1-844-7NATIVE, or 1-844-762-8483. Advocates are on call between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. DONOVAN SHORTEY/STRONGHEARTS NATIVE HELPLINE
AUSTIN, TEXAS – For more than a year, many Native Americans affected by dating and domestic violence have turned to the StrongHearts Native Helpline for support and referral services in pursuit of freedom from abuse.

“It seems like the year has gone by so quickly, and it’s just really rewarding to be able to offer a service that so many people need,” said Lori Jump, StrongHearts assistant director. “I think we’re fortunate to have the support of so many tribes and advocates across the country.”

By calling 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) callers affected by intimate partner violence can be connected with a StrongHearts advocate trained to provide confidential, culturally appropriate advocacy and referral tools at no cost.

The helpline is the first of its kind to serve Native Americans nationally, according to StrongHearts. It’s a collaboration between the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program.

During its first year, it expanded from its reach of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma to 68 tribal communities across 40 states.

“Every call is different. We try to see things from the point of view of the person calling us, so what their needs are can be varied,” Jump said. “Things that we see most often are requests for shelter and legal services. Those are also probably the least common services that are available to people living in Indian Country.”

StrongHearts also maintains a database of organizations within Indian Country that can help tribal citizens unsure where to turn.

“We have a database that we have worked very hard to develop and its Native-centered programs that provide services to victims of domestic violence, whether that be crisis intervention, personal advocacy, civil and legal representation, shelter, transitional housing, all of those things that come into play when somebody is a victim of domestic violence and trying to leave,” Jump said.

More than four in five Native women and men have experienced violence in their lifetime, with more than one in three women having experienced violence in the past year, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Jump said the high rates of domestic violence in Indian Country show that services like StrongHearts are “desperately needed in tribal communities.”

“The incidents of violence is higher against women than it is men, but we do know that it certainly happens, and we want to be there to support all victims of domestic violence, whether they are male or female,” she said.

Another challenge Native Americans face in abusive situations is access to services, which can be hundreds of miles from their communities.

“We can look at whole blocks across the United States where there really are not any Native-centered resources,” Jump said. “For those people to be able to have a place to call for immediate help is critical and to be able to speak to somebody that understands where they’re coming from, understands their situation, the legal aspects, it’s really important.”

StrongHearts employs three advocates who have undergone training, including 60 hours on the helpline learning how to locate services for specific areas of the country and the laws that come with living on tribal land.

“They train around a database that we use so when advocates are on the call with somebody, they’re able to find resources for them where they’re at in their community, or at least as close to it as they can get,” she said. “Additionally, we focus on sovereignty. There are a lot of jurisdictional issues that we cover, so our advocates are able to help navigate those systems.”

The helpline is not operational 24 hours a day, though Jump hopes continued funding would allow expanded hours and digital services.

“It would be really great to have our helpline be operational for 24 hours, so that regardless of where you were or when you were victimized, there would be someplace that you could call in and actually speak to somebody,” Jump said. “The other thing is that we would like to expand to digital for chat services. I think a lot of the younger people find it easier to send a chat message into something and communicate that way.”

For help, dial 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. For more information, visit www.strongheartshelpline.org.

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