Published June 5, 2019
By Mallory Black (Diné) and Liz Hill (Red Lake Ojibwe), StrongHearts Native Helpline
Anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship. Contrary to a common misperception, women are not the only ones who can experience domestic violence: American Indian and Alaska Native men report high rates of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking, too*.
According to a recent study by the National Institute of Justice, more than 1.4 million American Indian and Alaska Native men have experienced violence in their lifetime. This includes:
- More than 1 in 4 (27.5%) who have experienced sexual violence
- Roughly 2 in 5 (43.2%) who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner
- About 1 in 5 (18.6%) who have experienced stalking, and
- Nearly 3 in 4 (73%) who have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner
This same study looked at how violence affects Native men. When looking at Native male victims of physical intimate partner abuse, sexual violence and stalking, the impact is alarming:
- About a quarter of Native men (26%) expressed concern for their safety
- More than 1 in 5 Native men (20.3%) were physically injured, and
- About 1 in 10 Native men (9.7%) had missed days of work or school
Similarly, the gaps in culturally-appropriate resources do not discriminate, considering that more than 1 in 6 Native male victims (19.9%) needed services, yet were unable to access the critical services they needed for safety and healing (17%).
Lack of attention on Native males as victims
Domestic violence is a pattern of tactics that one person uses to maintain power and control over their partner. It can happen in any intimate partnership, whether you are dating, married, living together, or have children together, and it can include physical, sexual, emotional, digital, financial and cultural/spiritual abuse. Domestic violence has a devastating impact on victims and happens to men from all walks of life.
Regardless of gender, victims of domestic violence often face significant barriers in speaking out. However, for Native men, there can be an added layer of silence and stigma in seeking help. In our small, Tribal communities, Native men may fear being judged or ridiculed as ‘less of a man’ or ‘weak,’ particularly if his abusive partner is a woman. In reality, when Native men are the victims of domestic violence, this in no way indicates weakness.
When abuse is present in a relationship, it can be traumatic and humiliating, often leaving victims feeling degraded and doubting their self-worth. Men who are being abused in this way are often reluctant to seek help or tell friends or family out of embarrassment and/or fear of not being believed. They may worry that they — and not their partner — will be blamed for the abuse (ex. “But he started it…”). The fear of being mistaken for the abuser may also keep a victim-survivor from reporting the abuse to police.
If you are being hurt by an intimate partner, the first step to getting help is to reach out when you’re ready. We encourage anyone experiencing abuse to talk to a trusted friend or family member, to call the StrongHearts Native Helpline for a safe, confidential space to talk about what’s happening in your relationship.
Here at StrongHearts, we are here to support all of our relatives, including Native men. Advocates can be reached by dialing 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) available daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST, who can offer support, validation and a connection to culturally-based resources, if needed.
Admitting you are being abused does not mean you are not a good partner, husband or father. You are not to blame for the abuse. All of our relatives deserve to feel safe and loved in their relationships.
Abuse Against Our LGBTQ and Two-Spirit Relatives
It’s important to note that domestic violence doesn’t affect only heterosexual men and women. Across all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, about a quarter of gay men (26%) and more than 1 in 3 bisexual men (37%) have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
Native Gay or Two-Spirit Men may feel an additional stigma or barrier when seeking help for domestic violence. While an abuser in a LGBTQ relationship will use similar tactics as in a heterosexual relationship, they may also exploit their partner’s identity – and the discrimination they may face surrounding their identity – to hurt them. For example, an abusive partner may threaten to ‘out’ their partner to family or friends before the victim-survivor has made that decision for himself.
Advocates at the helpline are knowledgeable in serving the unique needs of our Native LGTBQ2S relatives and offer a safe, anonymous and confidential space for you to share your story. Domestic violence affects all members of our community, and your story matters.
No matter who is being abused, domestic violence goes against the traditional values and ways of our Tribal communities, and it is never okay. To all of our relatives in Indian country, you can be assured that the StrongHearts Native Helpline is here for you when you’re ready to reach out.
*While it’s important to shed light on violence against Native men, it is important to recognize that violence overwhelmingly affects millions of Native women each year. As such, it is crucial to remember that Native women have been targeted, degraded and sexualized by colonizers for generations and continues today.