Alaskan Community Leaders Meet to Improve Health Care Response to Domestic Violence

Jun 9, 2006

Some 60 national leaders from 17 states representing Indian Health Service, tribal and urban health care facilities, and domestic violence agencies held an unprecedented meeting in Juneau in May to identify strategies that will strengthen the health care system’s response to domestic violence against Native women.

Leaders from Ketchikan Indian Corporation’s innovative pilot program shared their experiences providing culturally relevant training, implementing domestic violence screening protocols, and building community awareness.

The Crow/Northern Cheyenne Hospital domestic violence team created “Family Fun Days” to bring together 350 community members to heal, and to create a safe, fun space for families to come together.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians partnered with social service agencies to create a video on domestic violence resources as a tool for both professionals and the public. They also created a domestic violence billboard with the message “stop the violence” to advertise local resources. They placed the billboard in a prominent area near the main highway.

Leaders of other national tribal health care and domestic violence programs also shared their successes.

“This work could not be more urgent,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) Managing Director for Health Debbie Lee. “Health care providers are in a unique position to help victims of abuse by detecting domestic violence and providing referrals and support. This is a wonderful meeting at which the nation’s top experts are learning how to share their successes with the broader community. We are making real progress in identifying strategies that show promise for keeping American Indian and Alaska Native women safe from domestic and sexual violence.”

The FVPF, Mending the Sacred Hoop Technical Assistance Project, Sacred Circle and the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault co-sponsored the event. It is part of the FVPF’s multi-year project, funded through an intra-agency agreement between Indian
Health Service and the Administration for Children and Families, to establish a domestic violence and health care pilot project with 15 Indian/Tribal/Urban health care facilities. The Ketchikan Indian Corporation Tribal Health Clinic is a funded site in the project, developing new strategies to stop abuse in vulnerable communities. This was the project’s first meeting in Alaska.

“This project has identified many strategies that are enormously promising,” said Lynn Hoefer, Domestic Violence Advocate with the Ketchikan Indian Community Tribal Health Clinic.

“But perhaps most of all, it has underscored that we are much more effective in stopping violence in Native communities when battered women’s advocates work hand-in-hand with health clinics and other health care providers. That kind of collaboration strengthens relationships long term and helps us improve the outcomes for women facing violence. It is exciting to share and communicate our successes, so that other Tribal and Native leaders around the country will see how effective this kind of cooperation is. When we do that, we will keep many more women and children safe.”

American Indian and Alaska Native women are battered, raped and stalked at greater rates than any other group of women in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in three Native women will be raped and three in five Native women will be physically assaulted in their lifetimes.

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