"Cases of domestic violence against Indigenous women and children and instances of sexual assault increased over the past year as nonprofit groups and social workers scrambled to meet the added challenges that stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic, advocates said Tuesday.
Their testimony came in the opening session of a two-day summit focused on ending violence against Indigenous women and children. Native American leaders from pueblos throughout New Mexico and from the Navajo Nation gathered virtually for the event.
The victim advocates who shared their stories pointed to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that were instituted in the early months of the pandemic. Many domestic violence victims were stuck at home with their abusers, believing there was nowhere else to turn while advocates themselves faced challenges getting to work and finding new ways to connect with victims and share information about resources.
They called it a 'shadow pandemic,' saying it has had ripple effects for victims, law enforcement and advocacy groups.
Angel Charley, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, said tribally based advocates and other organizers from Shiprock to Nambe and Santo Domingo used the past year to reinforce existing mutual aid networks. They learned many lessons in doing so that will help 'plant the seeds for change' as communities begin to emerge from the pandemic, she said."