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Identifying the Needs of American Indian Women Who Sought Shelter: A Practitioner-Researcher Partnership


American Indian women across all ages are significantly more likely than women of other ethnic groups to be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Despite their increased risk of interpersonal violence, there are few published studies or reports that explicitly examine the needs of victimized American Indian women. Therefore, both researchers and service providers know very little about the multifaceted needs of victimized American Indian women and whether current community services are meeting the needs of victimized native women. Identifying such needs is a logical next step so that victim service agencies can develop and effectively provide services tailored to victimized American Indian women. This commentary addresses these gaps by (1) identifying the needs of American Indian women in a domestic violence shelter in Arizona, and (2) highlighting the researcher-practitioner partnership that made it possible to gain access to these victims. Drawing on survey responses from 37 American Indian female clients and interviews with 10 staff members, the findings reveal that the domestic violence agency service provider is meeting many of their needs. Findings also indicate that clients have a wide variety of specific personal needs (e.g., safety, housing, transportation), needs relating to their children (e.g., safety, education, socialization), community needs (e.g., relating to their tribe), as well as legal needs (e.g., help obtaining a restraining order or divorce). These multifaceted needs are discussed and specific recommendations are provided for successful researcher-practitioner partnerships.

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This project was produced by the authors under 2015-VF-GX-K016, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. We especially wish to thank Page Regional Domestic Violence Services’ Executive Director, Gregg Martinez, who embraces agency growth, actively mobilizes the staff and clients, and embodies the organization’s mission to serve. We thank the staff and clients who participated in this research by offering their valuable insight into the lives of domestic violence survivors. We acknowledge the assistance of those who helped pilot and provided instrumental feedback on the client survey including: Ann Brandon of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Nancy Grigsby of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, and Nicole Wilkes of the University of Cincinnati, School of Criminal Justice. We also thank Rachael Smith, Kayleigh Stanek, and Diana Caraveo Parra for their research assistance. Finally, we acknowledge Arizona State University for research assistant funding under the Anne Larason Schneider Faculty Endowment for Community Research award and the ASU Foundation.

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Correspondence to Kathleen A. Fox.

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Fox, K.A., Fisher, B.S. & Decker, S.H. Identifying the Needs of American Indian Women Who Sought Shelter: A Practitioner-Researcher Partnership. J Fam Viol 33, 251–256 (2018).

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  • American Indian women
  • Native American family violence
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Domestic violence shelter
  • Needs assessment