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Sexual violence is a far too common thing throughout Native communities. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Native Americans are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual violence in their lifetime. As we know, this may be even higher due to the lack of reporting common in Native communities. Sexual violence is any type of sexual activity done without consent. We often don't know when someone is struggling with something. Sexual violence is no exception.

If you believe someone you know and love has experienced sexual violence, here are some warning signs:

Pulling out of their favorite activities or hobbies

         Your relative may be showing little or no interest in their favorite activities.

Small signs of loss of trust

         Your relative might stop trusting you or your family members with small or large things. 

Isolation:

         You may notice that your loved one is absent or turning down more invitations. They may have secluded themselves in their homes or workplaces or         finding reasons to spend more time alone or with very few people.

Signs of depression or energy fatigue:

         Your relative may be starting to show signs of depression. This can include changes in appetite and weight, conversations that include hopelessness or lack of outlook on life, and either uncontrollable emotions or numbing of emotions.

Loss of interest in conversations or seeming spaced out:

         Your relative might be experiencing “zone-out” or feelings of disconnection while in the middle of a conversation. This could look like slow responses to questions, looks of being lost in thoughts, or slower speech when talking.

Seeming to be uncomfortable when talking about sex or topics related to sex:

         This can be a little hard to detect if you don't already know how comfortable someone is with talking about the topic of sex. But if you see a dramatic change in the comfortability of one's expression and opinions of sex this could be a sign of sexual violence. 

If your partner has a change in interest in sex or being touched:

If you are concerned that your partner may have experienced sexual violence, one warning sign may be that they no longer show interest in sex and pull away when you try to approach or touch them. The main component here is that they seem to have lost trust or interest in sexual touch, but not necessarily in your relationship. 

While not every sexual assault or rape leaves physical injuries, here are a few to look out for:

  •     Bruising
  •     Vaginal or anal bleeding
  •     Broken or dislocated bones
  •     Difficulty walking

It can be difficult to talk with someone who has experienced something as traumatic as sexual violence. But as a relative, your support can mean a lot to a victim-survivor. StrongHearts Native Helpline is here to chat about ways that you can support a relative experiencing the effects of sexual violence. Call or text 1-844-7NATIVE or chat here on strongheartshelpline.org, advocates are available 24/7 for free, safe and confidential support. If you would like more information about how you can help someone in an unhealthy or abusive relationship visit our Help a Friend or Relative page.

Your body. Your sovereignty. Your decision.

The Native News Health Desk is made possible by a generous grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as well as sponsorship support from RxDestroyer, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the National Indian Health Board. This grant funding and sponsorship support have no effect on editorial consideration in Native News Online.