Wabanaki Legal News, Summer 2004
By Nancy Lewey
Coordinator Passamaquoddy Peaceful Relations Program
Teens are seriously at risk for dating violence. Research shows that physical or sexual abuse is a part of 1 in 3 high school relationships. Teen dating violence is just as serious as adult domestic violence. In dating violence, adolescents and adults engage in a pattern of abusive behaviors against their partner to gain and maintain control over them.
At the very core of dating violence is the belief held by the abusive partner that they are entitled to control and have power over their partner. Teen dating violence mirrors adult domestic violence in terms of existing on a continuum of controlling behaviors. These behaviors range from verbal and emotional abuse, to physical and sexual abuse and even to murder. Physical abuse includes and is not limited to pulling hair, choking, biting, pinching, slapping, kicking, throwing things and hitting. Sexual abuse includes and is not limited to treating you like a sex object, attacking the sexual parts of your body or forcing you to have sex. Emotional abuse includes and is not limited to name calling, put downs, threatening, isolating, blaming, intimidating or making you feel badly about yourself.
A healthy relationship is based on mutual respect, equal power and status. In a healthy relationship, each person can be themselves, each can have different opinions and interests, each listens to the other, each trusts the other, each can compromise, each is able to admit being wrong, each spends time on their own or with friends and family.
In an abusive relationship, one person feels pressured, humiliated, scared, and/or controlled by their partner. Over time, violence increases in frequency or severity. Thirty percent of all women who are murdered in this country are killed by their boyfriend or husband. In Maine, 8 of the 17 murders (47%) in 2003 were committed by family or household members or a person involved in the relationship. (Maine Dept. of Public Safety)
In 95% of all reported domestic assaults, the female is the victim and the male is the perpetrator. In 3% of reported assaults, the male is the victim of battering in a homosexual relationship. In the remaining 2% of reported assaults, the female is the perpetrator. Dating violence occurs in heterosexual and gay and lesbian relationships, affecting people from all socio-economic, religious, racial and ethnic groups.
Native American females are victimized 3.5 times more than all other females. The Department of Justice American Indians and Crime Report further reveals that 75% of intimate partner violence against Native American females is committed by persons not of the same race.
Relationship abuse is not about having a disagreement or being in a relationship with "ups and downs." Teen dating abuse is also not about having an anger problem. Abusive partners attempt to excuse their abusive behaviors by telling them that "It's because I love you." Or "It's your fault." Or "I didn't mean it." Abuse is not about love. It's never the victim's fault. Abuse is always a chosen behavior with the intent to control another. Some forms of abuse are crimes. No one ever deserves to be abused.
If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, please talk about it with someone you trust. Confidential help is available. The following Tribal domestic violence services are available in Wabanaki country:
- Aroostook Band of MicMacs
Sarah DeWitt, Advocate
- Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
Domestic Violence Program
Jane Root-Sylvain, Director/Advocate
532-6401 (confidential direct line) and
694-1353 after hours.
- Indian Township
Health Center Human Services Department
796-2321 for assistance, information and referral
Peaceful Relations Program
24 Hour Hotline 853-2613.
- Penobscot Indian Nation
817-7491 (direct line).
Information about domestic violence services outside of these Tribal communities can be obtained by calling the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.