Help to end teen dating violence: Native youth at risk

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown (Chilchinbeto, Dennehotso, Kayenta) was invited to be a guest speaker at the “Native Youth Conference: Educating and Preventing Dating Violence” to several Native American youth at the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake.

The focus of the conference was to educate Native youth ages 14-24 regarding dating violence, skills to develop healthy dating relationships, provide resources to youth for positive communication, conflict resolution, and skills to manage a more holistic view of “the self.”

According to a report from the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, Native youth experience violent crimes up to 10-times the national average, and dating violence accounts for nearly 75-percent of Native youth deaths such as fatal physical injuries, homicide, and suicide. One-in-three Native youth will be the victim of dating violence and sexual assault in their lifetime.

Brown provided a presentation on dating violence statistics and stressed that native cultural values and language are the forefront of understanding and developing healthy relationships.

“I feel it is important that our Native youth are provided traditional and cultural guidance from their parents, medicine people, and mentors in order for them to not only understand themselves at an individual level, but to foster healthy relationship by reflecting on their Native identity and their indigenous values from the home areas they come from,” Brown said.

Brown asked the Native youth to reflect on their Native identities for healthy dating goals.

“What is appropriate in relationships?” he asked. “How can you encourage respect with your partner, and how can we utilize our indigenous identities to aid in preventing dating violence?”

In response, students were able to participate in a drawing contest to illustrate what healthy dating could look like when Native identity is encouraged. Many of the youth drew pictures and messages that conveyed the importance of traditional protocol such as respecting the clanship system, traditional male and female gender roles through coming of age ceremonies, and promoting respectful dialogue.

The CSVANW report states that teen dating violence is a type of violence that happens between two young people in a relationship. The nature of the harmful and aggressive behavior can be physical, emotional, sexual, or technological abuse.

Brown utilized traditional Navajo examples for Native youth such as clanship and respecting familial boundaries, guidance from Diné elders, and the teaching of respect and discipline through the male and female kinaałda ceremony, or coming of age ceremony.

More information is available by visiting Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women website at www.csvanw.org.

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