The Citizen Potawatomi Nation House of Hope received a $200,000 federal grant to help raise community awareness about domestic violence.
It was one of only five programs in Oklahoma to receive the U.S. Indian Health Service funds. House of Hope will develop prevention efforts that address the social, spiritual, physical and emotional well-being of people experiencing domestic violence. IHS oversees the awarding of domestic violence prevention grant funds.
Events raise awareness
This type of grant supports outreach like the House of Hope’s first-ever Color Run, held on Oct. 1 at the CPN Festival Grounds. More than 100 participants attended, and staff provided information about House of Hope’s services.
Domestic violence affects people regardless of age, race or background, said House of Hope Prevention Specialist Kayla Woody. Efforts to prevent domestic violence have the greatest impact from a young age, by encouraging youth to be mindful of how they treat others.
“Even with younger age groups, we do book readings at the Head Start and different daycares where we talk about healthy relationships, how to treat a friend and how to be polite and kind. And we talk about body safety and how to say no and how to feel comfortable saying no,” Woody said.
Woody and House of Hope Director Tiffany Barrett are planning for an event called Jumpstart Day scheduled to take place early in 2023.
“We’re trying to pull as many resources from the community as possible (to help people) see what kind of help they can get. Not just resources for domestic violence, but also resources for housing, mental health, assistance with childcare” and more, Woody said.
Understanding the causes
Indigenous people experience domestic violence at a higher rate than other racial groups. More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native men and women, or 83 percent, have experienced a form of violence in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families. Nationally, about 41 percent of women and 26 percent of men have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Eradication of domestic violence starts with understanding the cause.
“We talk to our youth (and help them understand) that these behaviors aren’t healthy, they’re not normal. We’re trying to educate them on what healthy looks like so they can break that intergenerational cycle of abuse. When a boy or girl is being abused at home, they’re more likely to be abusive towards their partner or … to be abused by an intimate partner in the future,” Woody said.
Economic factors play a role. In households experiencing financial challenges, family members may experience abuse as well.
“Poverty causes more stress on our communities and makes it very difficult to leave abusive situations. The housing market is making it almost impossible to be able to leave an abusive situation and find a safe home. Inflation is making it difficult for families to be able to provide for themselves, which then keeps them in that violence. There’s so many different obstacles,” Woody said.
She wants to help people understand domestic violence may not always mean someone is experiencing physical abuse — it can also take the form of controlling behaviors.
“(We should be aware) what domestic violence really looks like, what abuse really looks like, and it’s not just physical. Someone telling you, ‘You can’t spend money,’ or ‘You can’t go here,’ or ‘You can’t talk to this person.’ When people see (it as abuse), they can start helping, to say ‘That’s not healthy. Have you considered reaching out for assistance? Have you considered if this relationship is best for you? Is it best for your children?’” Woody said.
Another way to support those experiencing abuse is to refrain from blaming the victims of abuse.
“That makes it even more challenging for that person to leave when they feel shameful and guilty about the abuse they’re enduring. Instead, if we let them know there’s resources out there, we can start preventing any future abuse from happening,” Woody said.
Breaking the cycle
Sometimes, those who experienced abuse either go on to abuse others or find themselves in an abusive relationship. Educating younger generations can empower them to break the cycle of abuse.
“We teach (youth) that healthy relationships are what they should be striving for. They don’t have to settle for toxic relationships. When we can help them feel confident, they’ll start making better decisions and breaking those cycles of abuse,” Woody said.
Parents can help by having age-appropriate conversations with their children about relationships. Younger children should learn how to respectfully treat others, while pre-teens should understand what constitutes a healthy relationship. House of Hope offers a “Safe Dates” curriculum for middle and high school ages to help youth understand how to have a safe relationship.
Volunteers are welcomed, needed
House of Hope always welcomes community support and encourages everyone to share the program’s phone number with someone who needs it.
“Save our phone number in your phone. You never know who you’re going to run into, who’s going to need those services. Say, ‘Let me text it to you,’ or ‘Write it down.’ Sometimes in a situation like that, you don’t have time to look up services. You need to be able to quickly say, ‘Here’s a number,’” Woody said.
In October 2022, more than 40 volunteers helped with the inaugural Color Run. Many of the volunteers became better educated in the process.
“Not only were they helping us, they were getting information themselves, and it was getting them fired up about helping and doing more in the community,” Woody said. “We are always looking for businesses, organizations and schools to allow us to come in and speak or put up posters. Any (group or organization) that would allow us to come in and provide information would be helpful.”
Those who have survived domestic violence can write an encouraging note for House of Hope shelter residents in the process of leaving a dangerous situation. Sharing a hopeful story about survival encourages those who are just starting the process, Woody said.
“Those (notes) are anonymous. It’s very supportive for our shelter residents to be able to see this isn’t just happening to me. (There are) people out there who support me and who care about me. We encourage people to write notes and letters and share their story,” she said.
Local church groups have also sent cards to House of Hope shelter residents to give them encouragement through a very difficult time.
House of Hope has been able to assist thousands of people ready to leave dangerous living situations. Woody is grateful for the times she has met survivors and seen how their lives have improved.
“I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to have someone walk up to me and say, ‘I came to you guys, and you helped me, you supported me, you gave me the resources I need. And now I am healthy.’ It’s so great to hear those stories, and there are so many of them. As much as we have to hear the negative and the hurt, there’s so much good that we’re able to hear as well,” she said.
Established in 1995, the House of Hope offers an emergency shelter, community advocacy, crisis intervention and community prevention education. HOH seeks to eliminate domestic violence by providing free assistance to all individuals, Native and non-Native, who reside in CPN tribal jurisdiction and have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual assault and/or stalking.
Learn more by visiting the House of Hope website at cpnhouseofhope.com or call 405-275-3176. The House of Hope 24/7 crisis line is 405-878-HOPE (4673).