How Teen Dating Violence Affects Indigenous and LGBTQ Communities


MANISTEE COUNTY — Teen dating violence affects about 10% of all teens in the United States, but its impacts can be even more pronounced among minority and LGBTQ communities.

This is a concern for Michol Ludwig. As an Outreach Specialist with the Ottawa Little River Band Indian Victim Services Program, Ludwig works with tribal members and other residents of the Manistee area.

Ludwig says a variety of racial and cultural components can contribute to how and even if an abuse victim seeks help.

“Native Americans are quite often very private, and there are studies that show Native Americans have a harder time asking for help,” she said. “So the culture is going to impact what it looks like for people to get help.”


While there are not many current studies that identify the rate of teen dating violence in Indigenous communities, data from the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center shows that Indigenous women in the United States “experience some of the highest rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, human trafficking, and murder in the country.”

Ludwig and other members of the recently formed Teen Dating Violence Planning Committee point to the resources available for Indigenous youth who have been abused.

These include the StrongHearts Native Helpline, a 24/7 helpline tailored to domestic culture, dating and sexual abuse for Native Americans and Alaska Natives. . It is available by calling or texting 1-844-7NATIVE or clicking the chat icon on strongheartshelpline.org.

According to a press release from StrongHearts Native Helpline, it launched a pilot project in 2021 to expand its existing domestic and sexual violence advocacy services to support tribal programs and their contacts in that state.
The project is a partnership with the Victim Services Division of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which is also providing the funding.

“A well-known problem in all of tribal domestic violence advocacy and shelter work is that many tribal programs are small with limited staff. Their defenders may need to carry pagers or cell phones at all times in order to respond to victims, resulting in overtime and additional stress,” the statement read. “Sometimes lawyers are unable to respond and victims who call after hours are simply asked to call back during office hours, which can create a safety issue for them. This project will give Native American victim-survivors in Michigan access to culturally appropriate advocacy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even if they call their local tribal program after hours.

Resources are available for those affected by teen dating violence.

A 24-hour Abuse in Relationships Hotline can be reached at 866-331-9474 and people can text LOVE IS to 22522. Online chat is available at loveisrespect.org. Visit loveisrespect.org for more resources and information about health relationships for young adults.

• Victim Services Program: victimservicesprogram.org

• The National Domestic Violence Hotline: thehotline.org

LGBTQ specific support

• National LGBT Help Center: Serving the LGBTQ+ community by providing free, confidential peer support and local resources. Call 1-800-246-7743 or chat at glbthotline.org.

• Brown Boi Project: a community of people working across race and gender to eradicate sexism, homophobia and transphobia and create a healthy framework of masculinity and change. brownboiproject.org

• Scarleteen: Inclusive, comprehensive and supportive information on reproduction and relationships for teens. scarleteen.com

• The Trevor Project: offers confidential 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth under the age of 25.

Support for Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color

• Heart: ensures Muslims have the resources, language and choice to nurture their sexual health and deal with sexual violence. hearttogrow.org

• StrongHearts: Free, confidential, and culturally appropriate 24/7 support for Native American and Alaska Native teens and young adults experiencing dating abuse and sexual violence. Call 844-7NATIVE or chat live at strongheartshelpline.org.


Nationally, teen dating violence affects about 10% of all teens between the ages of 12 and 18, according to National Institute of Justice dataand in 2020, 1 in 10 American high school students contacted the National Domestic Violence Hotline because of dating violence, according to information from family crisis centres.

Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical violence from a dating partner each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

“While a quarter of all high school girls have been physically or sexually abused, a 1992 study of Minnesota youth found that 92% of Native American girls who reported having had sex were forced against their will,” says the StrongHearst Native Hotline. website.

Despite these sobering statistics, a study conducted by Ludwig in late 2019 found that a quarter of teens in Manistee were not concerned about the risks of teen dating violence because they were not yet dating or were not currently in an abusive relationship.
Ludwig described the survey results as “alarming” in an email to the News Advocate and said that was “exactly why we need to focus on awareness and prevention”.

Advocates also point to the high risk of teen dating violence among LGBTQ youth.

LGBTQ youth are among those most at risk of attempting suicide, and those who experience physical dating violence are at a significantly higher rate, reports the Trevor projecta leading advocate for LGBTQ youth.

Overall, 11% of LGBTQ youth who said they had dated in the past year had experienced physical dating violence, according to a Centers for Disease Control survey.

“Although LGBTQ youth under the age of 18 had comparable odds of experiencing physical abuse in dating compared to those over the age of 18, there were significant differences in gender identity and of race/ethnicity,” says the Trevor Project website.

Most LGBTQ youth do not disclose their experiences of “physical dating abuse” with adults such as parents, family members, therapists, and medical professionals who may be able to help them access professional support,” according to the Trevor Project website.

The Trevor Project also reports that LGBTQ youth who experienced physical dating violence in the past year had significantly higher odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the previous year and that 37% of LGBTQ youth have not told anyone about their experiences of physical dating violence.

“It’s important to note that the dynamics of (teen dating violence) in the LGBTQ+ community, while similar in many ways, also differ — so help may feel different,” Ludwig said in a post. email to the News Advocate. “Additionally, boys who are abused by a partner may not be believed or given the same support as a girl due to a man’s mentality.”

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