“We will support survivors no matter how many times they come through our program.” – Shannon Buchanan
Byline: Braden Harper/Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – Domestic violence is a problematic issue on the reservation. It’s a crime that does not always get reported, leaving its victims in silence and fear. While it is an ongoing issue, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation continues to fight for victims by providing services through the Family Violence Prevention Services Program. October is dedicated to spreading awareness on the issue of domestic violence. It is also committed to spreading resources and education on the topic.
Oklahoma has some of the highest national rates of domestic violence and has seen climbing rates since the COVID-19 Pandemic. According to the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board 2021 Annual Report, the state ranks 8th in the nation for the rate of women killed in single-victim offender incidents in the United States.
Shannon Buchanan is the violent crimes victims services manager for the MCN Family Violence Prevention Services Program. Their mission reaches beyond just helping those within MCN.
“We serve everyone regardless of tribal affiliation, and we educate everyone in the community on how to support survivors,” Buchanan said.
The program hosted the “These Hands Don’t Hurt, These Hands Heal” event on Oct. 19. The event saw Principal Chief David Hill sign the “Muscogee (Creek) Nation Victim Protection and Jurisdiction Expansion Act.” The law implements the special tribal criminal jurisdiction provisions from the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022. (VAWA)
Passed by Congress, VAWA returns a portion of authority over criminal acts committed in Indian Country by non-Natives for assault of tribal justice personnel, child violence, dating violence, domestic violence, obstruction of justice, sexual violence, sex trafficking, stalking, and violations of protection orders.
A Domestic Violence Awareness Month Banner was exhibited at the ceremonial signing for attendants to add their notes of affirmation and encouragement for domestic violence victims.
Oct. 20 was Purple Thursday, where everyone was encouraged to wear purple to honor domestic violence victims and celebrate survivors. A scavenger hunt that promoted community awareness was hosted at the College of the Muscogee Nation on Oct. 27.
Awareness is essential. According to Buchanan, a common misconception is that people in physically abusive relationships can walk away from that situation.
“There are a lot of domestic violence myths when it comes to victims trying to leave an abusive situation,” Buchanan said. “Unless you’ve been in that situation, you are not going to understand.”
Domestic violence is an issue that disproportionately affects women, specifically women of color. Native Women are disproportionately affected as well.
The 2021 report states, “Native American women comprise 11.6% of adult female victims, a rate almost 47% higher than their share of the adult female population,”.
Buchanan advises survivors to seek help, no matter how hard it might be. According to Buchanan, it takes an average of anywhere from nine to 12 times to leave an abusive relationship successfully.
“Bringing that outreach to survivors to let them know that there is help out there, it’s nonjudgemental, and we understand that it can’t be all that easy,” Buchanan said.
“We will support survivors no matter how often they come through our program.”
If you or someone you know needs help regarding a domestic violence situation, call the MCN Family Violence Prevention Program 24/7 Crisis Line at (918) 732-7979 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. To learn more about domestic violence programs and services for Native Americans, visit https://oknaav.org/.