New studies confirm Native Americans are diagnosed with COVID-19 at a much higher rate, compounding disproportionate domestic violence numbers
EAGAN, Minn.—StrongHearts Native Helpline—a free, anonymous and culturally appropriate helpline for Native Americans affected by domestic, dating and sexual violence—has expanded its services to address the needs of a population disproportionately affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic violence. The organization has added online chat and sexual violence advocacy and is currently recruiting advocates to soon provide 24-hour services to meet demand from Native Americans along with referrals to resources such as legal advocacy, shelters and Native-centered domestic violence programs in each community as available.
"We’re alarmed by trends in domestic violence across the country during the pandemic. It’s a crisis within a crisis," Lori Jump, director of StrongHearts Native Helpline, said. "Tribal communities are acutely impacted by this issue. Our organization is working to reach out to our relatives in Indian Country with advocates who understand their experience in a personal and authentic way."
New studies confirm layered suffering
As reported by the Radiological Society of North America earlier this month, lockdowns during the pandemic have contributed to increased rates of domestic violence across the country and many victims are trapped for longer hours with their abusers. Indian Country includes an estimated 6.79 million people from 573 federally recognized tribes and these individuals experience domestic violence at much higher rates.
The effects of the pandemic on Native Americans are stark. Another recent study cited by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that in the 23 states studied, Native Americans were diagnosed with COVID-19 at a rate 3.5 times higher than the non-Hispanic white population.
According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) more than 1 in 2 Native women (55.5%) and 1 in 3 Native men (43.2%) have experienced physical violence by intimate partners in their lifetime.
Scaling services to answer a surge in demand
"The impact of COVID-19, layered on top of a lack of sufficient health care, is compounding the marginalization and victimization of Indigenous peoples," Jump said. "With an expanded staff and 24-hour services, we can be a lifeline to a highly vulnerable population during an exceedingly challenging time."
StrongHearts Native Helpline offers nationwide support to a historically underserved population disproportionately affected by intimate partner violence. While the Helpline currently operates daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central time, there remains a need for 24-7 assistance. The new online chat advocacy gives those in need of help the option to reach out in a more discreet manner without needing to speak on the phone.
Additionally, the Helpline’s launch of sexual violence advocacy addresses specific trauma experienced by victim-survivors of sexual violence. These new initiatives, paired with plans to hire additional advocates, will support the growing need for services.
Those interested in applying to be a StrongHearts Native Helpline advocate should visit www.strongheartshelpline.org/careers for more information. Any Indigenous person in North America experiencing relationship violence or anyone who believes a Native American friend, family member or coworker may be in an abusive relationship is encouraged to contact the StrongHearts Native Helpline by calling 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) and visiting StrongHeartsHelpline.org to connect with an advocate.