Domestic Violence Help for Native Americans

Domestic violence is abuse or threats of abuse when the person being abused and the abuser are or have been in an intimate relationship (married or domestic partners, are dating or used to date, live or lived together, or have a child together). It is also when the abused person and the abusive person are closely related by blood or by marriage.

The domestic violence laws say “abuse” is:

  • Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone, intentionally or recklessly;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Making someone reasonably afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt (like threats or promises to harm someone); OR
  • Behavior like harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone; disturbing someone’s peace; or destroying someone’s personal property.

Native American women — and men — are more likely than white counterparts to experience intimate partner violence. That violence is often grounded in trauma that impacts whole communities. For indigenous people, it can be traced back to colonization as well as to racism and oppression that persists today.


One of the most important roles of a tribal advocate is to assist the person seeking a protection order. As tribal advocates, we have a responsibility to form a trusting relationship, to welcome those who seek our services, and to stand ready to help. Advocacy services range from 24 hour crisis line, emergency shelter placement, providing basic essentials (for example, food, clothing, transportation), restraining order assistance, accompaniment to court, social services, medical assistance, peer counseling, group counseling (talking or healing circles), information, and referrals. As tribal advocates, we do all that we can to provide information so that Indian people can make informed decisions and act on their right to make choices without interference.

  • As a tribal advocate, you will become that trusted person — friendly, listening with an open mind and heart, giving support, validating, and hearing with understanding and patience.
    As a tribal advocate, you will be open and honest never promising anything you cannot do. If you are not sure about something, you can say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.”
  • As a tribal advocate, you will believe the person’s story without being critical or judgmental. Once trust is established, you may be the first person ever to hear parts of the story.
    As a tribal advocate, you will look for the person’s strengths and acknowledge them.
    As a tribal advocate you will focus on needs related to the person’s safety and that of any children the couple may have.
  • As a tribal advocate, you help the person identify choices, explain the ramifications of choosing each option, and then it is up to the person to decide what he or she thinks is the best course of action. It is your job to support those decisions, even if you do not agree with them (for example, even in situations where the victim chooses to return to her abusive partner).
  • As a tribal advocate, you know that many whom you will be helping are impacted by substance abuse.
    As a tribal advocate, you give the person accurate information about the court process, the range of services (listed above), and help connect the person to all available and appropriate services and resources, as needed.
  • As a tribal advocate, you are an educator with all whom you encounter, both tribal and non- tribal, working at a grass roots level to promote effective responses to domestic violence and sexual assault.

StrongHearts Native Helpline  (1-844-7NATIVE), a national, confidential and safe helpline for Native Americans facing domestic violence and dating violence.

from California Courts

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