“Leaving Before He Kills You,” an article published January 2 in the Santa Fe Reporter (SFR), tells the painful stories of Native women in New Mexico who have survived domestic violence. They are sharing their personal stories to heal and encourage other women to leave their abusive partners before it’s too late.
By voicing their heartbreaking and courageous journeys, these victims of domestic violence are raising awareness of the dire issue plaguing Indian country and playing a pivotal role in Native communities’ effort to end it.
The article references several safe houses and domestic violence shelters that help women and their children find refuge and move on, offer emotional support and mentoring incorporating traditional Native practices, and provide resources and education. Indian Country Today Media Network highlights several of the nonprofits mentioned in the SFR article below:
Home for Women and Children
The Home for Women and Children is the largest domestic violence shelter on the New Mexico side of the Navajo Nation in Shiprock. Among its many programs, it provides shelter, advocacy, mentoring and education for families affected by domestic violence and sexual assault, using traditional Navajo teachigns of K’e and Ho’zho (kinship and harmony).
White Bison, Inc.
Don Coyhis (Mohican) founded White Bison, Inc., an organization that aims to heal past trauma. Coyhis explains to SFR that as children, many Native grandparents and parents were forced into boarding schools, where many of them were emotionally, physically and sexually abused. Sadly, some of them grew into abusive parents and siblings. “You have a tendency to parent how you are parented…hurt people, hurt people,” he says.
This painful legacy has been termed intergenerational trauma, first defined in the 1980s by Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart (Hunkpapa Oglala Lakota) as “cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma.”
To break this cycle of abuse and help the victims and perpetrators heal, the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based nonprofit offers sobriety, recovery, addictions prevention, and wellness (“Wellbriety”) learning resources to the Native American community nationwide. Through its Wellbriety Recovery Circles, White Bison has reached 300 tribes, helping them integrate their own cultural practices into traditional healing workshops and trainings.
S.A.F.E House New Mexico
Najaway, a Navajo woman who survived 20 years of domestic violence inflicted by two husbands, found solace at Albuquerque’s S.A.F.E House New Mexico, a domestic violence shelter that offers counseling and job resources. The SFR article details Najaway’s decades of abuse and her road to recovery.
Shiprock Navajo Chapter House
The hogan-shaped Navajo dwelling is used for ceremonial purposes. In October in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Shiprock Navajo Chapter House held a vigil to remember the Navajo women murdered by their domestic partners, sponsored by the Home for Women and Children.