November 4, 2011

Conference raises domestic violence awareness

Conference raises domestic violence awareness
By Jerry W. Kram

Domestic violence has long been a silent epidemic, hidden from outsiders by those who mistakenly believe they are protecting the family. But victims and advocates are speaking out and educating the public and law enforcement that domestic violence is a real and terrible crime that must be stopped and prevented.
To help spread that message, the Fort Berthold Coalition Against Domestic Violence organized a conference to bring experts to the Four Bears Events Center to teach anyone who would listen about the reality of domestic violence.
“October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” said Sadie Young Bird, Executive Director of the coalition. “We want everyone to be aware of domestic violence and aware of what out program does.”
Domestic violence is a huge problem on Fort Berthold, Young Bird said. She said reported cases of domestic violence have tripled in 2011 from the previous year.
“We feel that increase is because of the awareness of domestic violence is growing,” Young Bird said. “People now know where to go to get help. But it has always been a problem throughout history.”
The increased population from oil development has also brought in a lot of new cases, said Amy Bears Tail Ward, an advocate with the coalition.
“We’re seeing a lot of people we don’t know,” Ward said. “But that’s good because they know they have someplace to go.”
Ward said as an advocate she works with people, both male and female, as they work to escape a violent situation.
“I’m there whenever they need to talk to someone or just have someone listen,” Ward said. “We go with them to court if needed. We just try to be their friend.”
Robin Spoon grew up on the Spirit Lake Reservation. She found herself in an abusive situation in the family that adopted her. She was devastated that the other women in that family wouldn’t support her when she came forward to talk about the abuse she suffered, even though she had strong support from her biological family. She said it wasn’t easy to tell her story to others, but it was necessary.

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