Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cherokee Nation proclaims October “Domestic Violence Awareness Month”

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker recently signed a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The tribe offers several programs to reduce the number of domestic abuse incidents in Indian Country. The programs help Cherokee victims, counsel the aggressors and inform the public.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker signs a proclamation Oct. 8 declaring Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (From L to R) Joyce Bunch, budget analyst, Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health; Melissa Pitts-Johnson, prevention programs supervisor, Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health; Catherine Leston, SANE/SART grant manager, Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health Clinic; Joni Greenhaw, Cherokee Nation Office of the Attorney General Domestic Violence Services; and Dr. Barbara Beach, licensed health service psychologist. 
“We want our tribal citizens to lead safe and healthy lives,” Chief Baker said. “One way we achieve that is through supporting and implementing important domestic violence prevention and awareness programs for citizens who need our help.”

The Cherokee Nation Attorney General’s office received a U.S. Department of Justice grant to improve community advocacy. The office started an advocacy program for Native American women and girls to empower them to recognize signs of abuse and let them know how to seek help. The program informs victims of their most current court proceedings and offers to accompany victims who need medical exams. The office also has a batterer’s intervention program to teach those who are violent toward a spouse or partner how to deal with aggressive behavior.

“Native Americans have the highest domestic violence victimization rates among ethnic groups, so we want to provide services to our citizens and community to educate and help them in their time of need,” said Nancy Rineheart with the Cherokee Nation’s Attorney General’s office.

A Coordinated Community Response Team consisting of the Marshal Service, Behavioral Health, Indian Child Welfare and the Attorney General’s office meet regularly to discuss ways to hold perpetrators more accountable.

The tribe has a transitional housing program that helps victims with housing rental expenses, relocation expenses and legal fees to ensure safety.

Thursday, Oct. 18, has been sanctioned “Domestic Violence Awareness Night.” During halftime at the Sequoyah High School football game, the Cherokee Nation Office of the Attorney General and Sequoyah Schools will honor victims and survivors of domestic violence to bring awareness to its younger citizens. Cherokee Nation marshal Shawnna Roach, who is trained to process domestic violence victims, will also be recognized for her advocacy and criminal investigation work.

For help with domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or dating violence, please contact Rineheart at 918-453-5000 ext 5915 or Joni Greenhaw at 918-453-5000 ext 5970.

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