Towards Thriving Cover

October 31, 2019

Violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people in the United States, as well as around the globe, continues to occur at an alarming rate. Specifically, the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit Indigenous people has drastically increased to epidemic levels and constitutes a serious human rights issue. Yet, there is little public outcry and even less scholarly research in the field of psychology on the scope and consequences of this crisis on the lived experiences of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) individuals and communities. The purpose of this manuscript is to specifically focus on violence pertaining to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people with a concentration on human trafficking which, according to AI/AN community leaders, is one of the major contributors to the high disappearance rates (Department of Justice, 2018). In our trauma-informed and intersectional approach, we review the available data on gender-based violence and human trafficking specific to Indian country and discuss the negative impact these issues have on the brain, the role of complex trauma, and behavioral outcomes. Throughout the paper, we highlight the influence of gender and race/ethnicity/Indigeneity on trauma and the outcomes of human trafficking while integrating discussions of cultural strengths and resiliency in challenging violence and healing AI/AN communities. We conclude with a discussion of culturally relevant, research-informed recommendations that psychologists can advocate to help raise awareness about and provide services to AI/AN people impacted by human trafficking.

Gender-based Violence among AI/AN Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People

Violence against women, children, and two-spirit people are not traditional AI/AN ways; in AI/AN cultures, women and children were historically honored and considered sacred. It was not uncommon for tribal societies to be matriarchal, and two-spirit people were often revered in AI/AN communities. Brunner (2013) illuminates the colonial context of violence against Indigenous women in her testimony, stating:

Human trafficking of Native women in the United States is not a new era of violence against Native women, but rather the continuation of a lengthy historical one with the colonization of America through wars, and forced removal from their homelands to reservations, boarding schools, and urban relocation. Domestic human trafficking in the United States has a longstanding history. (para 1)

AI/ANs experience higher rates of gender-based violence than almost any other racial group in the country. Six out of ten (56.1%) AI/AN women have experienced sexual violence; 84% of AI/AN women have experienced physical violence; 66% of AI/AN women have experienced psychological violence (Rosay, 2016). Furthermore, homicide is the third leading cause of death among AI/AN women and girls ages 10 through 24 (Daines, 2017; Ross et al., 2018). Previous legislation has attempted to address this epidemic, but ultimately fallen short. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), despite added provisions in its 2013 Reauthorization, still left AI/AN tribes unable to fully prosecute sexual assault offenders. Unfortunately, the protective value that VAWA did hold for AI/AN women and girls has been nullified, as the legislation expired during the recent government shutdown.

Conclusion and Ideas for Advocacy

Human trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence among AI/AN women, girls, and two-spirit people have a devastating impact on the survivors as well as on their families and communities. The legacy of colonialism is evident in the high rates of racialized poverty, economic exploitation, hunger, and violence within AI/AN communities and the exploitation they experience at the hands of non-AI/AN people. AI/AN activists are on the frontlines of naming the concerns, addressing systems contributing to the continued oppression of AI/ANs, and cultivating cultural practices to promote healing and wellness. Building on these efforts and the extant literature, we offer some advocacy recommendations to end human trafficking and assist survivors in the healing process.

  • Encourage legislators to pass S. 1870 SURVIVE ACT (Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment). This bill was introduced in 2017 as an amendment to the 1984 Victims of Crime Act and would offer tribes grants to support programs providing services for survivors.
  • Systematically collect data on human trafficking and to gather information about race and ethnicity as well as not limiting gender to binary categories for survivors (Ross et al., 2018). Without data, such crimes remain invisible; data help to humanize survivors and identify those who are most vulnerable. Additionally, this recommendation calls for the development of a culturally appropriate and trauma-informed training protocol for law enforcement and a national alert system.
  • Create a national education campaign to bring to light the vulnerabilities and exploitation of AI/AN women, girls, and two-spirit people, as well as the strengths and resiliency of survivors of gender-based violence.
  • Increase the number of and ease of accessibility to culturally-informed local services that are readily available to women, girls, and two-spirit people in the communities in which they live.
  • Develop training for direct service providers to identify human trafficking risk factors and the implementation of prevention services. Similar to training protocols for non-mental health individuals for suicide prevention, a similar training model can be used in communities to help reduce human trafficking and link community members to additional services and resources.
  • Identify and train peer mentors to provide services to AI/AN girls, women, and two-spirit survivors of human trafficking and support to those most vulnerable for human trafficking (Contreras & Kallivayalil, 2019).
  • Enhance partnerships between community resources to facilitate a safe exit from prostitution (Farley et al., 2016; Pierce, 2012).
Tai Simpson Staff Photo Tai Simpson

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Reference Stumblingbear-Riddle, Glenna P. Ph.D.; Burlew, Ann K. Ph.D.; Gaztambide, Daniel Psy.D.; Madore, Michelle R. Ph.D.; Neville, Helen Ph.D.; and Joseph, Gillian (2019) “Standing with our American Indian and Alaska Native Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People: Exploring the Impact of and Resources for Survivors of Human Trafficking,”Journal of Indigenous Research: Vol. 7 : Iss. 1 , Article 1. Available at:

Member Program Spotlight: Priest River Ministries

Priest River Ministries FacilityWe purchased the property in April with the help of Susie from C21 and Columbia Bank. They both worked hard to make this miracle happen. So many organizations donated time, money and effort to build this facility. George Weaver, owner of Alpha and Omega Construction was our benefactor from the beginning and as is his expertise, called, set up and managed all the sub-contractors needed to finish this project. So many companies donated their time and discounted their supplies. Stimson Lumber, who continually supports our shelter program, donated the lumber. Avista granted us insulation and light bulbs. All who donated were honored with a balloon on our kid’s Dr. Suess wall. Those who were honored are No Limits Construction, Bitteroot Plumbing, Patriot Construction, Lake City Church, Columbia Bank of Priest River, ACI Northwest, WeHaul Movers, Areocet, Creation Construction, Northern Lights Electrical, Floors and More, PR Ace Hardware, and all our amazing volunteers.

The efficiency and effectiveness in providing service to our community, especially those in crisis, has always been a high priority to PRMAFW. Now with all our services in one building we can meet the high expectations we had set for this organization and, our clients benefit. The Priest River office provides Lydia’s, our free clothing center , and the opportunity for our community to receive personal and household supplies each month. We also offer a learning lab with computers where clients can look for employment, write resumes, take classes on line and recieve assistance with acquiring documents such as birth certificates. Domestic and sexual violence services continue with advocacy, counseling, paralegal assistance, shelter, transportation and support. Our childcare/respite facility is secure and delightful. It is open for our client’s children, both in advocacy and Lydia’s, providing safety and care, snacks or lunches, diapers, formula and an in room bathroom. We are assisting approximately 300 clients in the Priest River office each month. We have two projects for this office that we are working to fund. One is an outoor secure fence area for our children to play and the 2nd is an outdoor, heated dog kennel for our families pets who are also escaping violence.

We have just moved our Sandpoint office to a much larger facility. We are located at 502 N 2nd Ave. We were given the opportunity to lease 3 spaces on the bottom floor from Life Choices Pregnancy Center. We are thrilled to be working along side of this amazing non-profit as many of clients intersect. We have now open “Tabitha’s Closet” where we will provide children’s clothing 12 mo and up. We also provide free household and personal supplies. We are currently open M-W 12-4, with counseling and paralegal assistance available at other times by appointment. If you are interested in volunteering or in donating children’s clothes, please come to the office and talk to our advocates.

During the winter last year in Spirit Lake, children walking home from the elementry school began stopping at Phoebe’s, our free clothing center located in our advocacy center. At first they came in to get a break from the cold as the traveled home, but they were also hungry. We started providing snacks. Each day, all the rest of the school year, aprx 8-12 children stopped to warm up and get a snack. When summer came, more children came. In July at the request of a few boys, we asked someone to make sandwiches and bring them for our kids. Within a week we were giving out 50 sandwiches per week, and snacks and water. We asked Lake City Church if they would find volunteers to make sandwiches and deliver them each Monday for the rest of the summer. They did. By the end of summer we were feeding an average of 28-38 children each day. Sometimes mom’s would come too and they would eat with their kids. It was difficult at best to accommodate children, clients coming to Phoebe’s for clothes and the advocacy center as our number’s exceed 250 per month. Now that school has started again, we are not providing sandwiches, and our numbers for snacks is around 20 per day. But looking to next summer, and realizing that God has presented us with a need and challenge, we are looking to set up a food shack for our community children to receive free lunches. So our project for Spirit Lake is to provide fencing and a coffee stand building of sorts before next summer. And to engage volunteers who want to build healthy realtionships with these kids by working at “Martha’s Place” a couple hours a day.

It is an amazing miracle to see God work in this ministry that started as a bible study for women who had or were experiencing domestic or sexual violence in 2002. Now we shelter over 150 women and children and their pets per year. We are the only community domestic and sexual violence organization in Bonner County. We receive no assistance from our county, state or government to run our shelter program therefore we depend on foundational grants, businessess, churches, corportaions and individuals for our support. We are always looking for volunteers, as we are primarily a volunteer organization. It takes a special kind of committment to volunteer in PRMAFW. Our clients depend on us in their time of crisis. Our volunteers are the backbone to this organizations success, receiving little recognition but they provide immeasurable kindness as they live out their service to God at Priest River Ministries-Advocates for Women.

By Rhonda Encinas, Executive Director of Priest River Ministries

Jose Vargas Speaks on His New Book, Immigration Rights, and More

Jose Antonio Vargas PhotoOn Wednesday, October 23, together with Define American, Rediscovered Books, The Idaho Dairymen’s Association, and the College of Western Idaho, The Idaho Coalition hosted Jose Antonio Vargas as he spoke about immigrant rights and his new book, Dear America: The Story of an Undocumented Citizen. Vargas spent time reading passages from the book, discussing in detail his experience with the law, being openly undocumented, and answering questions from the audience. The event ended on a great note with him signing books for the rest of the evening. The Idaho Coalition was honored to host Vargas and to bring community together to hear such a powerful story. We want to thank Define American for reaching out to host the event, Rediscovered books for selling books, The Idaho Dairymen’s Association for sponsoring Jose’s travel, and the College of Western Idaho for sponsoring the event.

Training & Events

Voting Day

Voting Day
November 5, 2019 | Idaho
One way to contribute to your community is to vote on local issues, so don’t miss out on this opportunity. Also, a reminder that you can vote before November 5!

Save the Date | Collective Thriving
Wednesday, December 4 – Thursday, December 5, 2019 | Boise State University, Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, December 3rd – Pre-Conference
Reclaiming Our Spiritual, Healing and Ancestral Wisdom in Social Justice Movements
Space is limited

The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence invites you to join us at Collective Thriving (previously Compassionate Communities), a conference where we will explore ways to repair the harm from our culture of domination, extraction, and violence and to re-imagine a world rooted in interdependence, resilience, and regeneration.

Registration is now open on The conference is filling up fast, so don’t miss out!

Idaho Coalition Store Materials

Engaging Voices Website StoreReminder that shipping for all material orders made by Programs on the Idaho Coalition website store is FREE of cost, please use the below coupon for all orders.

Visit the online store to view current Idaho Coalition materials available for order. For store questions, please contact Lacey Sinn.

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