Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Violence and Residual Associations among Native Americans Living on Tribal Lands

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Violence and Residual Associations among Native Americans Living on Tribal Lands

Article excerpt

The treatment of Native American populations has not been a traditional area of focus among mental health researchers (Matamonasa-Bennett, 2013). However, a push for increased knowledge in the effective treatment of this population has led to an influx of empirical attention in the past few decades. The National Congress of American Indians declared violence against Native Americans, particularly those living on tribal lands, as the most critical issue faced by Native Americans (Matamonasa-Bennett, 2013). Complicating the interpretations of the subsequent studies, Evans-Campbell (2008) concluded significant differences between Native Americans living on tribal lands and Native Americans living in urban areas. It is critical that counselors be cognizant of such within-group differences (Brown-Rice, 2013). Research efforts related to Native American populations living in tribal communities have predominately focused on exposure to violence. In order to bridge the gap in understanding how violence impacts Native Americans, the current review addresses the prevalence, predictive characteristics and residual associations related to violence among Native American men and women living on tribal lands. Moreover, the barriers to addressing mental health treatment among this population are discussed. Implications for counselors and directions for research are provided.

Violence and Mental Health Issues for Native Americans

Violence can consist of physical, sexual and emotional assault (Watts & Zimmerman 2002). Many acts of violence can be characterized as a combination of these categories, such as a sexual assault that also produces physical harm to the survivor. Physical violence can include assault, neglect of basic needs (which is most common among children), exploitation of labor and false imprisonment. Sexual violence includes rape, fondling, genital mutilation and sex trafficking (Watts & Zimmerman, 2002). Emotional violence includes isolation, verbal abuse, economic abuse, coercion, threats and intimidation (Pence & Paymar, 1993). Because violence is often conceptualized as a means to gaining or maintaining power and control over others, a survivor of violence is often victimized by those closest to him or her, such as a family member or friend (Watts & Zimmerman, 2002).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been associated with exposure to physically, sexually and emotionally violent experiences (Ford, Grasso, Elhai, & Courtois, 2015). Traumatic stress symptoms are often more complicated to treat in circumstances when an individual has been exposed to prolonged or repeated violence. Furthermore, these symptoms are more likely to develop when survivors of violence feel a sense of betrayal from the perpetrator, which is often reported by those who experience sexual assault and domestic abuse (Ford et al., 2015). Researchers have concluded that these issues are more prevalent among Native Americans living on tribal lands (Malcoe, Duran, & Montgomery, 2004; Yuan, Koss, Polacca, & Goldman, 2006), which may suggest a higher likelihood for the development of PTSD when compared to other populations.

Although PTSD is the mental health disorder most often associated with individuals who experience violence, depression (Cascardi, O'Leary, & Schlee, 1999) and anxiety (Pico-Alfonso et al., 2006) symptoms have been highly correlated to violence exposure. Clearly, those who survive violence are at high risk of developing mental health symptoms and can benefit from professional intervention. However, the experiences of Native Americans related to violence are not likely to be completely congruent to other populations (Sue & Sue, 2012). For this reason, it is crucial for counselors to gain increased competency in the unique factors impacting the Native American community in order to provide effective care.

Violence Against Native American Women

United States legislators acknowledged in the 2005 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that Native American women living on tribal lands were a particularly marginalized population (Crossland, Palmer, & Brooks, 2013). …

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