Native American communities

While the specific context of your abuse may vary depending on where you live, what community you belong to, or your tribal enrollment status (among other factors), Native Americans and Alaska Natives often experience certain expressions of abuse similarly.

Combined with the innumerable ways our nation continues to displace and oppress Native peoples on individual, communal, and structural levels, people in Native communities face particularly high risks of experiencing relationship abuse.

Studies suggest that survivors make up more than 84 percent of the entire US Native population.

Specific ways that Native survivors may experience abuse include:

Pronounced gender stereotypes

One partner may treat another like a servant while making all major decisions in the relationship.


Abusive partners may control what you can do (including work or school) and who you can see or communicate with, especially if you don’t live in close proximity to other Native community members. Jealousy is often used to justify efforts at isolation.

Using children

Abusive partners may try to make you feel guilty over your children, use your children to manipulate situations, or threaten to harm or take your children away.

Economic abuse

in the form of abusive partners taking money from you or making you financially dependent. Abusive partners may also prevent you from working in order to further isolate you financially and socially.

Coercion & threats

may include threats or actions by abusive partners to harm you or others. This can also include threats to leave, harm, or kill themselves, report you to law enforcement, or force you to do illegal acts.

Cultural abuse

can include behaviors like obsession over “Indian-ness” or “blood quantum” and the use of culture to reinforce gender roles.

Ritual abuse

includes the invocation of spirituality or religion as abuse. This can appear many different ways depending on the context but could include prayers against you, using spirituality to emphasize gender roles, preventing you from practicing your religion, or using interpretations of religious guidance as justifications for abuse, like saying that divorce “isn’t permitted” or that menstruation makes someone “dirty.”

Free, confidential support services for Native American and Alaska Native survivors of dating abuse are available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST through the StrongHearts Native Helpline, a partnership with the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. Contacts made to StrongHearts after hours will be able to connect with advocates from The Hotline.

Advocates at StrongHearts are trained with a strong understanding of Native cultures, including issues of tribal sovereignty and the law. Learn more and access Native American services.

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