OPINION: Cherokee Nation achieves domestic violence prevention milestone

Chuck Hoskin Jr.

At Cherokee Nation we are committed to creating a safe, caring and supportive workplace. As the employer of choice in the region, we know that safeguarding the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of our staff is important for the entire community. 

With a Cherokee Nation workforce that is more than 70% women, one issue that we take extremely seriously is the prevention of domestic violence. I am happy to announce that more than 4,250 employees, or about 98% of our workforce, have completed the domestic violence training course created by the Cherokee Nation Human Resources Department. Going forward, all new employees will be assigned the training upon being hired.

The national figures are staggering: Acts of domestic violence occur every 15 seconds across the country, 8 million workdays are lost due to domestic violence each year, and 4 in 5 American Indians – both women and men – have experienced violence in their lifetime. A 2016 study found that more than 1 in 3 American Indian and Alaska Native women had experienced violence in the past year.

Then with the COVID-19 pandemic creating upheaval in our routines and isolating many families, we saw domestic violence rates climb. It became more important than ever to promote healthy relationships for employees and their families. That’s why I signed an executive order last year requiring increased safety measures for all employees of the Cherokee Nation.

As part of this endeavor, we created the comprehensive required training, as well as a new self-reporting policy from the Cherokee Nation Human Resources Department. Many of us deal with complicated family and home situations, so training is critical to handle these problems in an empathetic and effective way. By educating ourselves, we can intervene before a situation gets even worse.

The Cherokee Nation training covered how to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence and prevent abuse of co-workers, friends and loved ones. The sessions also walked survivors through the steps they can take to get to a place of safety and seek help for themselves and their children.

Along with the helpful training, employees received information on internal resources, like the employee assistance program and the ONE FIRE Victim Services Program, as well as external resources, like the regional Help in Crisis nonprofit organization and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

This is a challenging and sensitive issue, but we are addressing it head on through education, conversation and victim services. As Cherokees, our culture teaches us to strive to live in harmony and respect for each other. As humans, we all deserve to live and work without fear.

My administration is dedicated to providing a blanket of protection over all Cherokees and everyone on our reservation in northeast Oklahoma. We do this through our criminal justice system when it’s necessary, but also by setting up the supportive networks to identify and prevent dangerous situations before they escalate.