Chickasaw Nation Violence Prevention Manager Janie Tingle, seated, and the Nation’s advocate for sexual assault victims Joy Burris, standing, look over a schedule of events for Stomp Out Sexual Assault awareness campaign that will be held April 12 at Wintersmith Park in Ada.
ADA, OKLAHOMA – Portraits of two children are prominently displayed in her pleasantly appointed office at the Chickasaw Nation Youth and Family Services building.
But Janie Tingle’s profession is anything but pleasant. She works with colleague Joy Burris, whose job is not pleasant, either. Tingle is a violence prevention manager within the department; Burris an advocate for victims of sexual abuse.
Despite what they do for a living, both smile and laugh easily. Each brings a success story that inspires them. It may well be those success stories that help both women stay focused as they toil away offering much needed encouragement and helpful services to any and all victims of sexual abuse.
They are excited about April 12 because on that day hundreds of people will gather at Wintersmith Park to show solidarity and support to Stomp Out Sexual Assault. Last year, 400 individuals walked in support of the cause and, despite the difficulty of the issue, enjoyed the day with family, friends and co-workers who joined in the effort to raise awareness of sexual assault.
Statistics are grim. One in three Native American women will experience sexual abuse. Nationally, the figure is one in four. Unfortunately, Oklahoma is ranked in the top 10 nationally in domestic abuse, which many times is a precursor to sexual assault, Burris said.
“I think many factors play into it,” Tingle observes flatly. “Drug additions, alcohol addictions, poverty, limited education. Oklahoma ranks near the bottom of the nation in education and that plays a role.”
While visions of trailer parks and rusty pickup trucks and neglected animals may spring to mind, both women wipe that image clean immediately. Sexual abuse and domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic lines. Homes of highly-successful professionals, pillars of the community or the soft-spoken neighbor next door are not immune.
Environment also contributes. Burris said statistics show if a child grows up in an abusive household – be it domestic or sexual – that child is 25 percent more likely to continue that behavior into adulthood.
A host of services are available to all victims through the Chickasaw Nation Department of Family Services.
Counseling is available, as is transportation and career development. If a victim wishes to change their life, help is available to get them back into school and even find a job. Legal advocacy is accorded victims from the initial incident all the way through court proceedings if the victim desires it.
The Nation partners with many agencies within its 13-county tribal territory to assist victims. In Ada and Pontotoc County, those include the Family Crisis Center, East Central University, law enforcement and prosecutors. The only service reserved exclusively for Native Americans is a SANE test performed at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center. SANE is an acronym for sexual assault nurse examiner. It is commonly referred to as a “rape kit” but both Tingle and Burris avoid the term. And, surprisingly to some, a SANE test can be administered to either a man or woman. Both sexes can be assaulted.
Sadly, Tingle and Burris report sexual assaults are not on the decline. They are unsure if more cases are being reported or if more incidents are occurring, but regardless statistics are static.
Even more disconcerting are the number of attacks that may not be reported.
“Think about it,” Burris said. “They have experienced something that is very, very private. If they report it and follow through to court, the private assault now becomes very, very public.”
Burris is on call “24-7” for any victim needing her assistance and expertise. She may work for the Nation, but she is active at Mercy Ada, too, when a victim crosses its threshold.
“This will be our sixth year of Stomp Out Sexual Assault. It is a way of communicating we are here to help, along with a lot of other professionals and organizations. I think it makes a difference. I believe we all make a difference,” she said.
Go And Do Box
Stomp Out Sexual Assault
WHEN: April 12 beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Wintersmith Park in Ada on 18th Street.
WHAT: Stomp Out Sexual Violence awareness walk and support. Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Family Services Jay Keel will speak as well as Pontotoc County Assistant District Attorney James Tillison. Chickasaw Nation Princesses will perform the Lord’s Prayer in sign language. The Chickasaw Nation Honor Guard will present the colors and the Nation’s dance troupe also will offer demonstrations of stomp dance. The Chickasaw Martial Arts program will offer tips and illustrate defensive tactics one may use beginning at 9 a.m. April 12. The martial artists will present a formal presentation of defensive actions at 12:30 following the walk. Chickasaw Wellness Center officials will be offering stretching routines and pre-walk warm-ups. Hotdogs will be given out and so will T-shirts. Children attending will be allowed to enjoy the Kiwanis Club attractions for free. Parents may choose to have their children fingerprinted by the Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Department. Fingerprints help lawmen track down children who go missing.
TIPS: Listen to your instincts. If something seems “wrong,” listen to yourself and be self-aware.
• Park your vehicle in well-lighted parking places at night.
• Lock your doors.
• Don’t leave with a stranger.
• Keep an eye on your beverage to make sure nobody puts something in it.
• Tell friends and family where you are going and how long you will be there. Stay in contact with family and friends.
• Remember, if you are a victim of sexual assault, 80 percent of the time you will know the person who assaults you.
• Exercise caution always.