On October 10th, StrongHearts Native Helpline announced that they had received over $2.7 million dollars in grants from the Department of Justice to further the outreach of the non-profit organization described as a “culturally-appropriate, anonymous, confidential and no-cost service dedicated to serving Native American survivors of domestic violence and dating violence.”
In a press release, StrongHearts Native Helpline said that within three years of launching, and in collaboration with the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) — StrongHearts is receiving two grants — provided by the Office of Victims of Crime Advancing the Use of Technology to Assist Victims of Crime solicitation and the Field-Generated Program to Improve Services for Victims of Crime — for a combined total of $2,768,168.00 to enhance services over the next three years.
According to the release, “the awards will be utilized to extend the helpline’s operating hours to 24 hours a day, develop advocacy training and services to assist survivors of sexual violence, as well as implement digital chat services to help increase accessibility and address caller safety. Launch dates for the digital chat service and 24-7 operating hours will be released at a later time.”
“Since the very beginning, StrongHearts staff listened to the critical needs of Native communities across the country and identified the need for 24-7 operations,” said Lucy Simpson, Executive Director of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center in the release. “Now with these two awards, we can realize the collective vision of having a dedicated Native helpline to serve survivors of violence in a culturally-rooted way at all hours of the day and night.”
“Considering Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or be a victim of sexual assault than other groups, the StrongHearts Native Helpline serves as a potential lifeline for survivors of these crimes,” said Lori Jump, Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa, the Director for StrongHearts. “We also know in remote areas, some victims may not have phone service or may fear their abusive partner overhearing them in an attempt to call, so providing a digital chat service option is crucial for increasing access for everyone in our communities.”
Jump told Indian Country Today that she was encouraged that the funds would help the organization extend the hours available to potential victims and/or for those in need of resources.
“We're really excited because this is going to help us to address the needs of our relatives. As a project, we've had limited operational hours. We started out Monday through Friday, um, from 9:00 AM till 5:30 PM, and then last year we got additional funding and we were able to extend so that we had daily hours from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM. This will allow us to become a 24-7 operation, which is really critical. We were missing between 20 to 30 percent of our calls during hours when we were closed,” said Jump.
Jump also discussed that StrongHearts was now looking to hire several more employees in numerous departments. For information, visit the 'about page' here.
She also said a missing important element that they have been wanting to utilize was the integration of a digital chat service.
“Something that we're also going to be able to do, which is also really important to us, is that we will be adding chat services. That's not something that we currently offer. And you know, so many of our youth and younger adults don't really use their phones for calling. They'd much prefer to send a chat message. I think that's really going to help us to reach the younger generation,” said Jump.
About the StrongHearts Native Helpline
Created by and built to serve Tribal communities across the United States, the StrongHearts Native Helpline is a culturally-appropriate, anonymous, confidential and no-cost service dedicated to serving Native American survivors of domestic violence and dating violence, along with their concerned family members and friends. By dialing 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483), callers can connect one-on-one with knowledgeable StrongHearts advocates who can provide immediate support and a connection to Native resources to enable survivors to find safety and live lives free of abuse. StrongHearts is available daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Callers reaching out after hours may connect with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799- SAFE) by selecting option 1.
American Indians and Alaska Natives suffer from the highest rates of violence in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Justice. In March 2017, the StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-7NATIVE) began providing callers culturally-based support for domestic violence and dating violence, along with a connection to Native resources. Grounded in an understanding of Native cultures, tribal sovereignty and traditions, Native advocates are specially trained to provide callers with emotional support, crisis intervention, personalized safety planning, and a referral to a Native and Tribal service provider if needed. Currently, the helpline is available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central time.