NORTHERN WILDFLOWER: Violence towards Indigenous women

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Racial violence towards Indigenous women still runs rampant in this country despite efforts to raise awareness. Most Indigenous women have been profiled and abused by someone they don’t know at least once in their lifetime. Today I want to talk about domestic violence towards women, which most Indigenous women have also experienced in one way or another in their lifetime.
Whether it be witnessing domestic violence in the home as a child, or being in an abusive relationship themselves – the cycle of abuse unfortunately tends to carry on until it is uncompromisingly severed which takes a tremendous toll on the life of the person trying to break it.
Until everyone is aware of the colonial impact that has been inflicted on Indigenous people in this country, and until justice is upheld, we are going to continue to see high rates of violence against Indigenous woman, especially in the North where there is a lack of treatment programs, a lenient justice system, a silent stigma around abuse, high rates of alcoholism, a lack of cultural awareness and expansive land dispossession all of which have additional implications on the lives of Indigenous people who are most negatively affected by colonialism.
Indigenous women are very strong and resilient. We are so strong that we sometimes feel that we have to carry the weight on our shoulders for everyone else in our lives. We often take on the role of caregivers and blame ourselves too quickly for other people’s actions. We often fight to hold onto something that we know is not good for us because we have hope that things will get better one day.
We often do not view ourselves as victims. When we find ourselves in an abusive relationship, we are often very forgiving. We don’t give up on those that we love easily, which can be a good thing, but sometimes it is for the best to let go and love from afar.
Women are all too often reminded by societal norms, mainly through mainstream media, that we are to stand by our men leaving us to wonder where we draw the line when it comes to what a healthy and an unhealthy relationship is.
This is one reason why many women stay in abusive relationships hoping for change and risking not ever having the option to walk away. Sadly, many women have been taken from us too soon or have done something that they wouldn’t have otherwise done out of anger. They often become abusers themselves, which is where we see violence perpetuating violence.
The only time I have ever seen an end to the domestic cycle of abuse is when the abusive partner has decided to live a sober life. In my experience, all too often, violence towards Indigenous women almost always happens when there is alcohol abuse involved.
It is very confusing when a woman finds herself in a violent relationship with a partner. Even though there might be warning signs at the beginning of a relationship, abuse often escalates over time which makes it harder to leave an abusive partner.
A myriad of feelings such as isolation, shame, dependency and fear can make it feel like it is impossible to get out.
What we can do right now as a community is work on strengthening and supporting one another.
We need to talk more openly about abuse instead of pretending that it is not happening in our communities.
We need to offer a safe place if we feel that our loved ones are in danger. We need to display to our children what a healthy relationship looks like even if that means being alone and exhibiting self-love and self-respect. Most of all we just need to be there for one another as a community.
Mahsi Cho.

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