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As February comes about, so does National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, casting a spotlight on a prevalent yet often overlooked issue affecting young people across Indian Country.  

This dedicated month serves as a crucial reminder of the prevalence and impact of teen dating violence, urging communities to come together to address and prevent its devastating effects. 

From raising awareness to fostering open dialogues and providing support, this observance empowers individuals and organizations to take proactive steps to combat teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships among adolescents. 

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Within the tapestry of Native cultures, the quest for harmony and equilibrium is not just philosophy but is ingrained deeply into every aspect of life. For the Navajo, the guiding principle of Hózhó embodies not just harmony, balance, and beauty but also serves as a compass for navigating life, thought, and well-being.  

Similarly, the Ojibwe concept of mino-bimaaduziwin encapsulates the essence of a sacred, virtuous existence, while the Yup’ik tradition of calricaraq advocates for a life firmly anchored in unwavering traditional values. 

Within these Indigenous communities, violence finds no place amidst the fabric of their traditional values or cultural teachings. Instead, emphasis is placed on the pursuit of balance and harmony, principles deeply cherished and practiced. 

Despite the deep-rooted cultural emphasis on balance and respect, the burden of violence, especially among adolescents, casts a dark shadow on Native communities. Teen dating violence, encompassing physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, bullying, and stalking, poses a significant threat to the well-being of young people. 

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that American Indian and Alaska Native students report disproportionately high levels of teen dating violence, demanding urgent attention and action.  

According to the National Institute of Justice, Native American adolescents experience violence at rates higher than any other racial group in the United States, with 56.4 percent reporting experiencing sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 

Here are some ways you can make a meaningful difference as you observe National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, according to IHS

  • Open Dialogue: Engage in open, non-judgmental conversations with Native youth about healthy relationships and recognizing unhealthy behaviors.
  • Cultural Education: Teach traditional values and beliefs that promote respect and harmony, addressing violence and other behaviors that disrupt balance.
  • Consent and Boundaries: Educate youth about consent, boundaries, and what constitutes a healthy relationship.
  • Media Literacy: Help teens understand how media representations can distort perceptions of healthy relationships and bodies.
  • Positive Role Modeling: Be champions for teens, demonstrating healthy, respectful communication and providing safe spaces for them to express themselves.
  • Community Engagement: Invite others to join the conversation and promote traditional community wellness practices.
  • Cultural Expression: Use storytelling, art, and other culturally responsive methods to encourage healthy, nonviolent relationships among Native youth.

By promoting these values and providing support systems, the cycle of violence can be broken along with promoting positive health outcomes for Native youth. Additionally, accessing resources such as Love is Respect and the Teen Dating Violence Awareness Prevention Center can offer vital support and guidance. 

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The Native News Health Desk is made possible by a generous grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as well as sponsorship support from the American Dental Association. This grant funding and sponsorship support have no effect on editorial consideration in Native News Online. 
About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.