DV conference takes a traditional tack

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Oct. 17, 2013

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

It's a month where people don't shy away from the truth of domestic violence, but find ways to help people understand it and prevent it.


DV programs: Awareness improving, action lagging

The Navajo Nation's Department of Behavioral Health Services Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI) held a conference at the Navajo Nation Museum from Oct. 14-15 to help people have a traditional understanding of what domestic violence is and a traditional approach to prevention.

The theme of the conference was "Ayoo'ooni Bee Inaago Baa Hozho."

DVPI Coordinator Davina Segay said the DBHS took a different approach this year to promoting domestic violence prevention by having traditional practitioners come in and discuss various topics related to domestic violence.

Throughout the conference different topics were presented that pertain to families and healthy relationships -- not too much the negative side of domestic violence, said Segay, adding that they are hoping participants leave with better understanding on what domestic violence is and how it handle it.

"A lot of time we lack the traditional side," Segay said, which is why this is the first time the conference has been focused on the traditional aspect of dealing with domestic violence.

Presenter Victor Begay, community involvement specialist, led a presentation on healthy relationships.

"It takes more than chemistry between two people to make a healthy relationship work," Begay said, adding that you need to factor in a few things like community, health, environment, independence, traditional teachings and yourself.

"Taking care of yourself," Begay said is the traditional aspect of maintaining a healthy relationship.

Begay added that the best advice to help a young couple develop a healthy relationship is for them to have their own home because he believes a couple connects better in their own space as opposed to sharing it with in-laws.

"You have to learn how to be independent," Begay said, adding that he understands the biggest obstacle to couples finding their own place to live is economics.

Developing a healthy relationship not only benefits the couple, but it would most likely benefit the couple's children, if any, by keeping them away from domestic violence.

Diné traditional practitioner Gerald King from Cove, Ariz.

led a presentation on how domestic violence affects children where he shared personal stories of what children have told him of domestic violence while he offered the audience ways to prevent domestic violence around their kids and identify its effects.

King said there are a lot of ways domestic violence affects a child, but when the violence is taking place right then and there, the overall fear and what the child felt and witnessed is what affects them the most.

"When they process it at a later time in a way they feel they will have to choose a side, for the abuser or the victim, and the abuser or victim will try to win the child's side," King said.

He then recalled a child told him about his mother and father.

He said the boy noticed his mother was sick a lot and that made his father so angry because it stopped her from completing tasks around the house.

King said the kid told him that their dad got so angry one night after their mother threw up he made her eat her own vomit.

"You think it's somewhere else.

You're wrong, it's here," King said emotionally after sharing that story.

The signs of how domestic violence is affecting a child begin to develop between the ages of 11 to 17, King said, adding that you'll begin to notice changes in your kid's behavior.

"The behaviors begin to show in different forms," King added, saying that the child will start become argumentative, defensive and start to isolate himself or herself.

King said once a parent begins to notice those signs, it's best to start helping their child right then and there, "don't wait. That is the best preventive way of helping your child."

"Start talking to your children," King said is the best way to prevent the effects of domestic violence. "Do your job and be a parent," King advised.

Parents need to realize they can't go to any level of violence around their children without it affecting them, he noted.

Conference attendee Elberta, who withheld her last name because she was a victim of domestic violence, said when she was in that abusive relationship she thought it was her fault.

It was her three-year-old daughter who had to say, "Mommy, let's leave before daddy hurts you."

"It does affect the kids," Elberta said, adding that domestic violence can be passed on because once a child sees it in the household they'll think it's OK and will possibly fall into that pattern when they grow up.

"It's not a thing they (parents) need to do at home and they can get help," Elberta said, adding that conferences like this help people get a better understanding of domestic violence and where they can go for help.

Elberta said information presented at conferences is good, but she understands that sometimes people don't want to hear about it because they think "what goes on in the home stays in the home."

Segay said she hopes this traditional approach to domestic violence prevention will possibly stick to the people who witnessed the presentations because she feels that if it's taught in the traditional aspect people on the Navajo Nation will hopefully grasp it better.

"I'm hoping that with younger population here that whatever was taught they could take it home and apply to their own relationships," Segay added.

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