USA: Initiative Increases Domestic Violence Health Screenings in Indian Communities
Thursday, July 29, 2010 5:00 PM

Women in the American Indian and Alaska Native communities experience domestic abuse at a higher rate than any other race or ethnicity in the United States.  39% percent of Native women reported being victims of domestic violence in their lifetime, according to a 2008 Center for Disease Control and Prevention Report.


One major obstacle to addressing domestic violence in Indian Country is the lack of domestic violence health screening by health care professionals. To address this problem, the Family Violence Prevention Fund partnered with Sacred Circle, Mending the Sacred Hoop Technical Assistance Project, and local health care centers to increase the number of domestic violence health screenings. Through their collaborative effort, they developed a Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) measure which required that “every IHS [Indian Health Service] facility institute a policy and procedure on [domestic violence], and conduct routine assessment, intervention and referral for intimate partner violence with women aged 15 to 40,” according to its 2010 report.


Thanks to this initiative, more than half of all women at Indian Health Services facilities now receive a screening for domestic violence by doctors and nurses, an improvement from only 4% when the program first began in 2002. The model brought together numerous approaches including an increase in domestic violence health screening, access to community and legal services for victims, and an increase in public awareness about violence against women.


According to IHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Karol, this model was effective “because it offered a multi-faceted response to violence, offering community supports and legal services when women needed them, improving the way health care providers respond to women disclosing violence, raising awareness of domestic and sexual violence in local communities, and strengthening community partnerships to help victims of domestic and sexual violence."  The 2010 report, Building Domestic Violence Health Care Responses in Indian Country: A Promising Practices Report, highlights this successful model, and offers an outline for other communities to increase domestic violence health screening as well.


Compiled from: Progress in Addressing Domestic Violence in Indian Country, Family violence Prevention Fund, (27 July 2010).