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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Support a Local Cause

The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, a nonprofit organization, on the Rosebud Reservation is offering a number of outreach events this month.

The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, a nonprofit organization, on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota is offering a number of outreach and educational events including a walk in Rosebud on October 8 to raise awareness about domestic violence. The Society, the first shelter located on a reservation for domestic violence victims, has struggled to keep its doors open this past year after the completion of several federal grants.

Last month, however, Society leaders announced that the organization had received a $900,000 grant from the Department of Justice to be shared with Rosebud tribal courts and law enforcement.

The Society has served victims of domestic and sexual violence for 38 years, offering emergency shelter and other services.

According to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Native women are subjected to domestic violence at a rate of 2.5 times higher than any other group in the United States.

“Our shelter is always full,” said Janet Rouzen of the Rosebud tribe. She is executive director of the Society that serves four counties including the Pine Ridge Reservation in this sprawling region of Southwestern South Dakota.

The Department of Justice announced recently that its office had awarded 169 grants to tribes, Alaska Native villages and tribal designees totaling $87 million. The Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) grants are designed to help in crime prevention, public safety and community policing, justice systems planning, alcohol and substance abuse, corrections and correctional alternatives and violence against women and youth.

“$900,000 sounds like a lot of money to people but we have so much need here,” she noted.

The Pine Ridge Reservation, for instance, does not currently have a shelter so domestic violence victims must be transported to the Society or shelters in Rapid City or other parts of the state. The cost of transportation, including staff time and gas, is overwhelming according to Rouzen. Rapid City is at least two hours from Pine Ridge.

“Everything is so spread out here in South Dakota. We often do our transports relay style with other agencies if we have to, “she noted.

Women usually come to the shelter with little more than the clothing on their and their children’s’ backs. “We rely on the generosity of donors for food and clothing for our clients,” Rouzen said.

As of June, the Society has housed 65 women and 101 children during 2014.

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“We never turn people away. Although it may be far from their home, we find a safe place for them and their children,” Rouzen said.

Rouzen noted that staying with family members is often impossible since perpetrators may target them as well; therefore, it’s often necessary to house women away from home. This creates further expense, as they must then travel greater distances to attend counseling and doctor appointments.

Half of the CTAS grant goes to the Rosebud reservation law and judicial system to pay for basics such as process servers who are needed to serve protection orders for victims of domestic violence against their perpetrators. “We only had one process server before the grant. That person was responsible, not only for serving protection orders, but for all the other civil orders created by the tribal court,” Rouzen said.

Rouzen worries about future generations as children who have been exposed to violence grow up and repeat what they have seen in their relationships.

“There is no direction about healthy behavior, no good modeling of what a good relationship should look like. We end up with this continuous cycle,” she said.

Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson for the Office of Violence Against Women agrees. “We know from our work across Indian country and elsewhere, that early intervention that interrupts or deters a pattern of escalating violence is the key to avoiding more serious and deadly violence in the future,” she said in a DOJ press release.”

“And it is the key to saving more women’s lives and protecting more children from growing up in a home where violence is the norm,” she added.

“Tribes don’t have sufficient revenue to support victim services or all the needs of the courts, so organizations like the Society fill an essential need,” Rouzen noted.

Unfortunately, $400,000, the Society’s share of the grant won’t cover all the organization’s expenses.

“I’m just sitting here now crunching the numbers trying to figure out how we can make this work if we don’t get any additional monies. Some of us may have to go part-time. Somehow we will still have to do the same, if not more, work.” Rouzen said.

She is grateful however and notes that the grant is the first financial break the organization has gotten in quite awhile.

Learn more about the White Buffalo Calf Women Society here.