Across Indian Country, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) is an important opportunity to listen to and talk with youth and teens about healthy relationships and dating violence. As Native people, relationships represent our sacred connections with each other, grounded in the traditional understanding that ‘we are all related.’ However, we also know relationships are challenging and especially so for Native youth and teens that are exploring romantic relationships for the first time.
As advocates, parents and teachers, it is important we listen to and center the needs of Native youth, providing safe, non-judgmental spaces for our young relatives to talk about dating violence and healthy relationships. As adults, we can provide guidance and support on traditional ways of caring for each other and teach Indigenous values of compassion, kindness, honor and respect. Strengthening and balancing the relationships in our lives cannot be done alone — it is up to all of us to support and listen to the next generation. StrongHearts Native Helpline (1–844-762‑8483, or chat at strongheartshelpline.org) is also available to assist Native teens, parents and advocates in navigating unhealthy or abusive relationships.
Because we are connected in the sacred circle of life, violence against youth and teens affects us all. Nationally, nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year, and about 1 in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year. No one deserves to be abused in any way. Romantic relationships should be grounded in respect, not based on power and control masked as love. Dating violence is not our tradition. Our young relatives deserve healthy, respectful love.
Through positive conversations with youth and teens centered at the core, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, NativeLove, StrongHearts Native Helpline, and the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Centersupport efforts by tribal programs and Native organizations to empower the next generation in reclaiming and defining what safe, healthy and strong relationships mean for them. We will continually encourage and support meaningful efforts by and for Native youth and teens, and lift up their voices in speaking out about dating violence. Youth are at the heart of our survival as Native peoples; Native youth and teens can lead the way for positive change. We all need to take responsibility for being part of this change.
Help honor youth and teens in your lives by raising awareness of dating violence and promoting healthy relationships! Below you will find more information about the signs of dating violence, what to do if a young relative is being abused, and resources to help get involved.
Dating Violence, Defined
Dating violence is a type of relationship violence that occurs between young people. It is defined as when a person uses a pattern of abusive behavior toward their partner to gain power and control over them. Dating violence can include one or more types of abuse, and it can look like:
- Physical abuse: pushes, shakes, slaps, kicks or spits on you. Holds you down. Throws or breaks your personal belongings (ex. books, cell phone, etc.)
- Emotional abuse: insults you, calls you hurtful names or embarrasses you in public. Constantly accuses you of cheating. Threatens to hurt you or expose secrets about you.
- Sexual abuse: unwanted kissing or touching, pressures you to have sex or makes you feel guilty for not wanting to have sex, or demands that you send them sexually explicit photos or videos.
- Digital abuse: constantly calls, texts or DMs you to find out where you are or who you’re with, tells you who you can be friends with on social media, or sends mean messages on social media either directly from them or anonymously.
- Cultural/Spiritual abuse: Criticizes your spiritual or tribal beliefs.
- Financial abuse: Steals money from you, your family or friends.
Some signs of dating violence can include when a partner:
- Acts extremely jealous or possessive of you
- Follows you home or to school, or shows up wherever you are unannounced
- Are annoyed or upset when you spend time on the phone with other people
- Tells you who you can or cannot be friends with
- Starts rumors or threatens to start rumors about you
- Excessively texts you or sends non-stop DMs
- Checks your phone for who texts or calls you
- Tags you in hurtful social media memes, posts or pictures
- Criticizes your dreams, goals, family or friends
- Tells you what to wear or how to dress
- Explodes in anger toward you or acts aggressively when they’re upset
- Kisses, grabs or touches your body without your permission
- Forces you to take sexually explicit selfies or videos
- Threatens to hurt themselves or commit suicide if you don’t do what they want
If you know a young relative that is being abused:
- Create a safe space and tell them you’re concerned about their safety.
- Be a good relative and listen to their story when they’re ready to share.
- Ask how you can help them.
- Offer support and encourage your friend’s strength and courage.
- Share resources available online or locally from your community.
- Learn about dating violence and the signs of relationship abuse.
- Avoid confronting the abusive person hurting your loved one. It can escalate the situation and put your young relative in danger.
- If you need to talk, call StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1–844-762‑8483 or chat at org.
Helpful Resources and Activities:
- Access the Native TDVAM Social Media Guide for shareable social media posts, graphics and covers.
- Invite youth and teens to take the #NativeLoveIs Instagram Story Challenge for a chance to win a prize pack from NativeLove and NIWRC!
- Join the #NativeLoveIs Twitter Chat, February 12 from 3–4 p.m. MT, to speak out against teen dating violence and help educate about healthy relationships.
- Explore NIWRC’S Special Collection for Native American Teens, developed to provide awareness resources and promote important discussions about teen dating violence.
- If you need to talk, call StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1–844-762‑8483 or chat at org.
- Read blogs, Recognizing Healthy Relationships and Dating Violence and How to Support a Loved One in an Abusive Relationship, by StrongHearts Native Helpline.
- Watch NativeLoveIs videos focused on raising awareness and empowering Native youth to speak out about traditional cultural values that honor and respect Native women.
- Explore the NativeLove Online Toolkit for Youth and Toolkit for Educators Coaches and Mentors for resources to raise awareness about teen dating violence.
- View Signs of Teen Dating Violence and Resources from TeenDVMonth.org.
- Explore 2021 Teen DVAM Action Guide by Love is Respect.
About the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center:
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. (NIWRC) is a Native-led nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against Native women and children. NIWRC provides national leadership in ending gender-based violence in tribal communities by lifting up the collective voices of grassroots advocates and offering culturally grounded resources, technical assistance and training, and policy development to strengthen tribal sovereignty. niwrc.org
About StrongHearts Native Helpline:
StrongHearts Native Helpline was created by and built to serve Tribal communities across the United States. It is a culturally-appropriate, anonymous, confidential and free service dedicated to serving Native American and Alaska Native survivors, concerned family members and friends affected by domestic, dating and sexual violence. Dial 1–844-7NATIVE (1–844-762‑8483) or click on the chat now icon at strongheartshelpline.org daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Connect with knowledgeable advocates who can provide lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable survivors to find safety and live lives free of abuse. StrongHearts Native Helpline is a project of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Learn more at strongheartshelpline.org.
About the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center:
Organized in 2015, the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC) is a tribal nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against women with Alaska’s 229 tribes and allied organizations. AKNWRC board members and staff are Alaska Native women raised in Alaska Native Villages and have over 250 years of combined experience in tribal governments, nonprofit management, domestic violence, and sexual assault advocacy (both individual crisis and systems and grassroots social change advocacy at the local, statewide, regional, national and international levels), and other social services experience. AKNWRC’s philosophy is that violence against women is rooted in the colonization of indigenous nations and thus dedicated to strengthening local, tribal government’s responses through community organizing efforts advocating for the safety of women and children in their communities and homes against domestic and sexual abuse and violence. aknwrc.org