What Is Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is a system of power and control over an intimate partner. Domestic violence includes any and all forms of abuse: physical, sexual, and emotional. The motivation is always to control another person's thoughts and behavior.

Domestic Violence Against an Adult Can Include:

Physical Abuse

  • Pushing or shoving
  • Hitting or slapping
  • Strangling or restraining by force.
  • Pulling hair.
  • Punching, kicking.
  • Twisting arms, tripping.
  • Using a weapon, i.e. gun, knife, blunt object, lighted cigarette.

Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing or coercing a sexual activity that is not wanted or consented to (rape, oral sex, anal sex).
  • Forced prostitution.
  • Repeated accusations of sexual activity with others, i.e. calling partner whore or slut.

Emotional Abuse

  • Intimidation--putting the victim in fear by using looks, actions, gestures, loud voice, destroying property.
  • Isolation--controlling what the victim does, who the victim sees and talks to, and where the victim goes.
  • Putting the victim down, name calling, mind games.
  • Economic abuse--trying to keep the victim from getting or keeping a job, making a partner ask or beg for money, taking money, controlling the checkbook and bank accounts.
  • Threats--making threats to hurt the victim or the children, to take the children, and/or commit suicide.
  • Using Children--making the victim feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages, using visitations as a way to further harass or abuse, labeling the victim as a bad or inadequate parent.

How do victims of domestic violence feel?

  • Fear - Fears for personal safety and the safety of the children are often overwhelming.
  • Confusion - The victim may believe her partner when he promises to change or to stop abusing her. The victim may feel confused over the change in the partner's behavior from day to day.
  • Shame and Guilt - Victims are told that they deserve the abuse, and they try to change their behavior to stop the abuse. This makes victims feel progressively worse about themselves, because nothing they do stops the abuse. Victims may be ashamed about staying in the relationship. Each abusive incident progressively lowers a victim's self-esteem and initiative to leave the situation.
  • Minimization of the Abuse - The abuser constantly tells the victim that the abuse is deserved, or even that it did not occur at all. Victims begin to think they may be exaggerating and may begin to view the abuse as "normal."
  • Trapped, powerless - When all control is taken away, it takes all a victim's energy merely to survive and protect the children. Leaving is seen as an unattainable goal.

Why do battered Women Stay?

The above question, "Why do battered women stay?" more accurately reflects society's reality. Gender also plays a large role in the power imbalance that forces woman to stay in abusive relationships more often than men.

Asking why she stays is an important question to answer, but it is also important to examine society's need to ask it. We ask this question because we have a need to place blame somewhere. It is easier to blame the victim of a crime than to hold the perpetrator accountable, especially in the complicated context of domestic violence.

However, society must get past this stumbling block, and begin to view victims of domestic violence consistently with compassion, and that means acceptance of their life choices and a conscious refusal to pass judgment. We also need to be mindful of the statistics, and be aware that leaving does not mean safety.
A battered woman stays because of:

  • Fear for her safety and the safety of her children. 75% of domestic assaults occur at the point of separation or divorce. (U.S. Department of Justice) A woman is murdered in this county by a stalking ex-husband or boyfriend every two hours. (de Becker, Public Radio interview, July 9, 1997) Leaving is the most potentially deadly time.
  • Fear that her children will be taken from her. Batterers threaten that they will take the children from the victim either legally or illegally if she dares to leave the relationship
  • No transportation --A rural battered women often cannot leave her home because of lack of transportation. She may not have access to a vehicle, or a driver's license. Even if she does have a vehicle, she may be reluctant to drive to appointments with service providers for fear the abuser will check mileage. In addition, many rural and remote residents live on gravel backroads, and road conditions are often poor. Maintenance and snow removal may be intermittent or completely lacking.
  • Economic -- In rural areas, as in other areas, poverty is devastating. Poverty in rural areas is often harsher than professionals may realize because of the lack of available services and safety nets. Seasonal jobs mean unemployment during the off-season, with little chance of finding other employment. Rural areas have few, if any, job training programs.
  • Nowhere to go in the short term - Rural battered women may not have access to a shelter, or the nearest one may be more than an hour away. Going to a shelter means uprooting children from school and extended family.
  • No permanent housing -- For rural battered women, leaving a batterer means leaving the community because of a lack of permanent housing. Staying in the community often means living is sub-standard or unsafe housing.
  • Security -- Many rural women have never lived anywhere else, and leaving the security of a family is a giant step into the unknown.
  • Livelihood/Lifestyle -- Many battered women are business partners in the farming or ranching operation. Children are begging to return -- It is difficult to ignore the pleas of children to return to their homes, even when a battered women knows that the situation is unsafe.
  • No childcare -- Rural areas face a severe shortage of childcare. Mothers who work outside the home often have to piece together childcare arrangements that includes friends and relatives, or they must transport their children to another community where childcare is available. Mothers are often worried about the emotional and physical well-being of their young children. This is one more obstacle that rural battered women face.
  • Religious reasons -- Churches are the social fabric of small towns and rural communities. Many rural women are deeply religious, and deeply opposed to breaking up the family.
  • Extended Family -- Family plays a huge role in the lives of rural and remote people. Family provides comfort and security, and sometimes is one of the only social outlets. Homes, businesses, and farms are often intertwined among extended family members. Preserving the relationship is vital to the emotional and financial health of each individual. Divorce wreaks havoc on this intricate structure. Battered women are often pressured to stay in abusive relationships for the sake of the family.
  • Generational Effects of Domestic Violence -- Isolation can be pronounced in rural communities, and the family is often a closed unit. If a battered woman grew up witnessing violence she may face additional barriers to leaving within her own family.

Violence Against Native American Women


The rate of violent crime estimated against Native Americans is well above that of other U.S. racial or ethnic groups and more than two times the national average.

From: American Indians and Crime Report
US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics-Perry 2004

Approximately 60% of the Native American population in ND resides on one of four reservations and 41% of the Native American population in ND is under the age of 20. Even though as a whole Native Americans comprise only 5%, violent victimization occurs at an alarming rate both on and off the reservations.

From: North Dakota Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence State Plan-2009


Violence against Native Americans can be largely attributed to the immigration of Europeans to North America beginning over 600 years ago. This began the change in the status of Native women, once held as leaders, considered sacred and much respected; the Europeans enforced their values and perpetuated the belief that violence against women, particularly their partner was acceptable.

This began the downward spiral into assimilation. Led by the belief that the European, or "white man's way" was the best way; Native Americans were forced onto reservations and to give up many of their long practiced traditions and cultural beliefs.

This was also a time when children were removed from their parents and forced into Catholic boarding schools. They were often raped, abused and forced to develop a different value and belief system. This system has created lifelong implications for generations to come. This often includes loss of traditional parenting, the introduction of alcohol and violence as well as the idea of ownership.

Native men went from experiencing the non-violent way of living to witnessing violence; adopting "white man" stereotypes and treating women and children as property. The status of Native American women also began to shift at this point. Rape, abuse and murder became common practice against Native women. Women were no longer considered sacred.

As a result of these changes, violence and oppression have become the norm and efforts to end the violence are still in their early stages. To continue to combat the violence that is now seen as "normal;" many people are working to restore traditional values and cultural beliefs. One of the most important of those values is that women are sacred.

Adapted from: Praxis International

Native culture is grounded in the knowledge that we are all related, that the values of respect, compassion and non-violence are integral to our survival, and that women truly are sacred. Historically among Indian people, what we now call "confidentiality" was the practice of honoring individual?s life changes and paths and the right to walk through the world with freedom, safety and respect. We have an alternative to utilizing the hierarchical medical model of dominant society as a basis for the way we do our work. The work in Indian Country to end violence against Native women and their children is powerful when the indigenous culture, beliefs and worldview are used as models.

Sacred Circle, National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women

National Facts

Rural women living on reservations face unique challenges when dealing with violence. Not only are there generally a limited number of police officers to respond to calls that cover vast distances, but on tribal lands there are often unresolved jurisdictional issues about who will respond to the calls. Many tribes do not have jails, so there is very little they can do to enforce laws. In addition to these complicated jurisdictional barriers, many Native women have limited access to telephones, transportation, emergency services, or accessible roads, especially in inclimate weather.

Rebecca St. George
Mending the Sacred Hoop Technical Assistance Project, Duluth, MN: Feb. 2001

  • Native Women:
    In 2001 more than 588,000 American women were victims of non-fatal violence committed by an intimate partner.

  • Other Race Offenders:
    At least 70% of violence experienced by Native Americans is committed by persons not of the same race?substantially higher than for whites or blacks.

  • Most Victimized:
    The average violent crime rate among American Indians per year is approximately 2.5 times higher than the national rate.

  • Rape:
    The average rate of rape and sexual assault among American Indians per year is 3.5 times higher than all other races.

  • Aggravated Assault:
    Native American victims reported at a rate more than double that of all races. (All races: 11 per 1,000; Native Americans: 35 per 1,000)

  • Simple Assault:
    Native American victims reported at a rate more than double that of all races. (All races: 31 per 1,000; Native Americans: 70 per 1,000)
  • Stalking:
    Seventeen percent of Native American women have been stalked
  • Overall:
    Violent crime rate among Native American Women was 98 per 1,000. More than twice that of whites (40 per 1,000) or blacks (56 per 1,000).

  • Victim-Offender Relationship:
    Native American's victim-offender relationship was about the same as that reported by all other races.

  • Injuries:
    Native American victims of intimate and family violence are more likely than victims of all other races to be injured and need hospital care. (Medical costs were more than $21 million over a 4-year period.)

  • Race of Offender:
    At least 70% of the violence victimizations experienced by Native Americans are committed by persons not of the same race - substantially higher rate of interracial violence than experienced by white or black victims.

    From: American Indians and Crime Report
    US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics - Feb. 1999

    *Please note:
    Although these statistics are national statistics, they don't reflect what occurs most commonly around North Dakota. In fact, quite the opposite has been observed. Most of the reported intimate partner offenses committed against Native Americans are being perpetrated by other Native Americans.

    Local and State Resources to End Violence Against Native Women

    First Nation's Women's Alliance

    P.O. Box 162
    Tokio, ND 58379-0162
                  701-294-2081         701-294-2081
    email: fnwa08@gmail.com

    *Please see ND Guide to Services for a complete list of local domestic violence and sexual assault programs around the state.

    National Resources to End Violence Against Native Women

    Sacred Circle

    722 St. Joseph Street
    Rapid City, SD 57701
    Ph: (605) 341-2050        605) 341-2050
    Toll Free: 1-877-RED-ROAD       1-877-RED-ROAD
    Fax: (605) 341-2472

    Mending the Sacred Hoop Technical Assistance Project

    202 E Superior Street
    Duluth, MN 55802
    Ph: (218) 722-2781       (218) 722-2781
    Fax: (218) 722-5775

    Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center

    2300 15th Avenue
    Minneapolis, MN 55404
    Ph: (612) 728-2000       (612) 728-2000
    Fax (612) 728-2039

    White Bison, INC.

    6145 Lehman Drive
    Colorado Springs, CO 80918
    Ph: (719) 548-1000         (719) 548-1000
    Fax (719) 548-9407

    Peaceful Nations

    1208 San Pedro NE
    Albuquerque, NM 87110
    Ph: (505) 268-5863       (505) 268-5863
    Fax:(505) 268-7462

    American Indian Law Center, Inc.

    PO Box 4456 Station A
    Albuquerque, NM 87196
    Ph: (505) 277-5462       (505) 277-5462
    Fax (505) 277-1035

    Cangleska, Inc (outreach services)

    PO Box 3003
    Pine Ridge, SD 57770
    Ph: (605) 867-1035    (605) 867-1035
    Fax (605) 867-1728


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