Abuse in Native American & Alaska Native Communities

Native Americans and Alaska Natives face particularly high rates of domestic violence, and while specific cultural contexts vary by your location, community, tribal enrollment status, and more, forms of abuse often appear similarly in different Native communities.


Culturally-specific examples of abuse experienced by Native survivors include:

Pronounced gender stereotypes that emphasize one partner’s needs over another’s. Abusive partners may try to justify unequal power dynamics using cultural customs or traditional beliefs.

Efforts to isolate you by limiting what you can do (including decisions about work or school) and who you can spend time with, particularly among others from your community. Jealousy may be used as a justification for attempts at isolation.

Manipulation in situations with children including making you feel guilty about your parenting, involving your children in the situation, or threatening to harm or take your children away. Particularly given historical legacies of forced adoption in Native communities, threats or steps to remove children from a parent’s custody may carry additional emotional trauma.

Financial abuse by taking money from your victim or making you dependent on an abusive partner for necessities. This may involve efforts to prevent you from working in order to further isolate you financially and socially.

Threatening to harm you or themselves, leave the relationship, report you to law enforcement, or force you to perform illegal acts.

Cultural abuse by using culture to justify abusive behaviors. This may include competitions over “Indian-ness” or “blood quantum,” or the overemphasis of traditional gender roles.

Ritual abuse by invoking spirituality or religion to justify abuse. This is a particularly varied form of abuse but may include threats through prayer, preventing you from practicing your chosen religion, or interpreting religious texts or beliefs as justifications for abusive behavior.

The StrongHearts Native Helpline offers free, confidential support services for Native American and Alaska Native survivors of domestic violence every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST through a partnership between The Hotline and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. Note: contacts made to StrongHearts after hours will have the option to connect with advocates from The Hotline.

StrongHearts advocates have a strong knowledge of Native cultures and communities, including issues of tribal sovereignty and the law, and may be able to help you identify resources specific to your community.

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