StrongHearts Native Helpline celebrates six year anniversary operating a culturally appropriate helpline for Native Americans and Alaska Natives affected by domestic and sexual violence. It’s a celebration of breaking down barriers to safety and empowering Native people across the nation that has kept advocates fueled and the number of contacts growing.
“We’ve seen monumental growth in our contacts and our ability to provide support and advocacy to our relatives,” said Lori Jump, chief executive officer, StrongHearts Native Helpline. “The statistics clearly show that our relatives are seeking what has been missing for years - a connection to culturally appropriate, anonymous and confidential support and advocacy.”
In the first 7 months of operation, StrongHearts tallied 468 contacts. However, that number grew each subsequent year. By the end of 2022, StrongHearts advocates had answered more than 40,000 contacts via call, text and online chat.
StrongHearts met the ever increasing need for advocacy by incorporating additional support systems and expanding hours of operation:
- In 2020, online chat and sexual violence advocacy were launched.
- In 2021, text advocacy was launched and hours of operation expanded to 24/7.
This past year, StrongHearts filled key leadership positions with Sonia Palmer, chief operations officer and Chelsee Singleton, human resources manager who work to support the growth in staff and infrastructure. To sustain continued growth, plans include:
- working more closely with Tribes and Tribal events.
- increasing external relations and outreach efforts.
- bolstering staffing structure and support for employee well-being.
- leveraging data and resources to advocate for change at a policy level.
- increasing the capacity for long-term sustainability.
Culture Makes A Profound Difference
“Culture makes a profound difference in building trust, safety, and belonging,” Jump explained. “Our advocates are Native and our culture is the basis for providing the most welcoming, understanding and caring form of advocacy. It is on a path toward healing that StrongHearts advocates provide peer support, crisis intervention, safety planning, referrals to Native-centered service providers and general information about jurisdiction and legal advocacy.”
Removing Barriers To Safety
StrongHearts was born out of the knowledge that in spite of alarmingly and disproportionately high rates of violence experienced by Native Americans only a small percentage reached out for assistance. While there are many reasons why victim survivors do not reach out, for Native people, barriers to safety include a lack of available resources and a lack of trust between Native people and organizations outside of their communities.
Before offering advocate support 24/7, victim-survivors who called after business hours were given the option to transfer to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and very few chose that option. Choosing to wait for a StrongHearts advocate further exemplifies the need for culturally appropriate support and advocacy.