Native-centered domestic violence helpline offering culturally-based support for victims in Indian Country and Alaska sets sights on Eagan, Minnesota
This winter, staff of the StrongHearts Native Helpline, a partnered project of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, packed their bags and made the move from Austin, Texas, to their permanent home in Eagan, Minnesota, a city in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metro area where its national headquarters will be based. To carry out the work of StrongHearts Native Helpline, both the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline are funded through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, administered by the Family & Youth Services Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“We are proud to call Minnesota as StrongHearts’ new home because of its rich Native history, Native population, and its status as a hub for Native-led organizations,” said StrongHearts Assistant Director Lori Jump, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. “Organizations in Minnesota are also known for being very proactive and progressive in the work that is being done around domestic violence, which goes hand-in-hand with basing our operations in a supportive environment with a built-in network that fits StrongHearts’ mission and goals.”
The StrongHearts Native Helpline joins a handful of Native-led organizations and coalitions in Minnesota, including Mending the Sacred Hoop, the Sacred Hoop Coalition and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC), along with 11 Tribal nations across the state. Also based in Minnesota are the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP) and the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, which work to provide a voice for victims of violence and promote social change.
Nicole Matthews, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, serves as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition in Saint Paul. She said StrongHearts’ move to the Twin Cities metro area feels like a natural fit because of the state’s programs and community-driven work to end violence against Native women.
“The new offices for the StrongHearts Native Helpline are located in the heart of Dakota Territory,” Matthews said. “Our Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area also serves as a major hub for several Tribal Nations, many of which have urban offices to address the needs of their members. Within Minneapolis-Saint Paul, we have a thriving urban Native community, many of which initially came to the Twin Cities looking for work or to attend school and stayed. We sincerely look forward to building our relationship with the StrongHearts Native Helpline and working together to end violence against Native women.”
To date, StrongHearts (1-844-7NATIVE) has received more than 1,400 calls from survivors, concerned family members and friends, service providers and more, helping to close the gap in culturally-appropriate resources for American Indians and Alaska Natives facing domestic violence. As the first culturally-appropriate domestic violence helpline specifically targeting Native Americans, StrongHearts is also expanding its staff of advocates to respond to callers, many of whom are seeking support as they navigate difficult barriers to justice and safety.
Trained with a strong understanding of Tribal cultures, sovereignty and law, StrongHearts advocates offer one-on-one, peer-to-peer support and referrals to local resources in a safe and healing environment. All calls are anonymous and confidential.
“We have heard from so many Tribes and advocates about the needs in their communities, and we are looking forward to growing StrongHearts in every possible way to better serve Native victims of abuse,” Jump said. “Domestic violence affects us all. It is critical for us to weave together the supports made available by Tribal programs and advocates to help our Native people seek safety and healing in whatever way they choose.”
Domestic violence remains a critical issue in Tribal communities, where half of the Native American women and a third of Native men have experienced physical abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to a study by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
The study also found for those who had experienced violence, more than a third of Native women and more than one in six Native men were unable to access the supportive services they needed, such as shelters, legal advocacy, and medical services.
“When victims cannot access services that understand their culture and world view, they cannot fully explore their options for safety, justice or healing,” Jump said. “It is important that we create spaces where survivors of violence feel safe and restored in their ability make the best decisions for themselves and their families along their journey, wherever it leads.”
Created by and for American Indians and Alaska Natives across the United States, the StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-7NATIVE) is a culturally-appropriate, confidential and anonymous service dedicated to serving Native Americans affected by domestic violence and dating violence. By dialing 1-844-762-8483, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST, callers can connect at no cost with advocates who can provide immediate support and lifesaving tools and resources. After hours callers have the option to connect with the National Domestic Violence Hotline or they may call back the next business day.
For more information about the StrongHearts Native Helpline’s available services, visit www.strongheartshelpline.org.
This project described was made possible by Grant Number 90EV0426 from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.