A new service designed for Native American survivors of domestic or dating violence made its debut earlier this month.
The Austin, Texas-based StrongHearts Native Helpline began taking calls March 6 in Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which launched the helpline, initially focused on those three states because they have large Native American populations and the resources to help callers who need assistance.
“We really wanted to start a good foundation and build up from there,” StrongHearts spokeswoman Mallory Black said Thursday.
She said the hotline may eventually expand into other states, depending on the demand for service and the resources available in those areas.
A StrongHearts news release described the hotline as a free, culturally appropriate and confidential service for Native American survivors of domestic abuse and their concerned family and friends.
Native American residents of Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska may call 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Central time Monday through Friday. People who call the hotline after hours have the option of connecting with the National Domestic Violence Hotline or calling back the next business day.
Callers who live outside those three states may still call StrongHearts while it develops its service network, according to the news release.
Five years ago, officials with the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline began discussing the need for a hotline to support tribal communities across the country, according to information from StrongHearts. After consulting tribal elders and other experts, the two organizations started laying the groundwork for a new hotline.
The new service would be staffed by advocates with a strong understanding of Native American or Native Alaskan culture, tribal sovereignty and legal issues.
The organizations’ plans bore fruit in January with the creation of StrongHearts, which is partially funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Human Services’ Family and Youth Services Bureau, Black said. She said Verizon Wireless and the NFL also provided financial support for the new hotline, which started operations in early March.
Black said StrongHearts is the first hotline dedicated to helping Native American survivors of domestic and dating-related violence.
“We’re really building something from the ground up,” she said. “It’s an exciting place to be, and we’re looking forward to growing.”
Citing privacy concerns, Black declined to comment on how many calls the hotline has received so far. She also said she could not comment on the hotline’s operating costs or the size of its staff.
For more information, visit www.strongheartshelpline.org.