Conversations Regarding Violence Are Much Needed for Native Women to Heal
By: Nikke Alex
When I started MissNikke.com, I never expected the amount of attention the blog would receive. Law school has made it difficult to respond to every message and inquiry. I receive various inquiries such as - Can you speak with my kids about sex? Can you come to my school to present to my students? But, the one that has resonated with me is - When are you going to stop talking about sexual violence and talk about the fun things about sex?
When I first started writing about my experiences with sex education in Navajo, I just wanted to write about my classroom experience and the need for sex education. But, through law school, my writing has evolved into a new territory - sexual violence and violence in general against Native women. This dialogue about violence is much needed.
I grew up in a home with violence. Like many Native youth, my father was an alcoholic and often resorted to violence against my mother and sometimes myself. But, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I really understood what impact violence had on a person.
A couple years ago, I participated in a summer program for Natives who were interested in law school. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to attend law school, and the next steps in my life was to participate in this program. After a few weeks into the program, I found my study group. All summer, I worked diligently, because I wanted to do well.
Mostly, I really wanted my study group to do well; because we were young, and we came from the same kind of community - rural and rez. My undergrad classmate and I pushed our group to study all the time, because we wanted to defy all the stereotypes of law students coming from the rural rez.
By the end of the program, I felt we had become a family. Everyday, we were with each other from 8am to 8pm. The second to the last weekend some of our group members decided to go out for a night on the town, so five of us went out. We went to a country bar, and then our DD drove us home.
When we got to the place I was staying at, I was flirtatiously teasing one of my friends to get out of the car to come inside. As I was teasing and pulling him, another friend was doing the same. It was all fun and games, until I realized I was under him on the ground with his hands around my neck strangling me. It took me a few minutes to realize that I was under him, and he was clenching my throat. He was in such a trance that he was not about to let go.
The next thing I remember my undergrad classmate was trying to pull him off of me. He would not budge, so she began to strike him all over. It took him several minutes to realize that he was on top of me and was strangling me. Once he realized it, he ran down the street.
I was so discombobulated and so shocked. Another friend told me to call the police, so we did. Once the police came, the police instantly pointed their fingers to my friend and refused to make a report. We were so confused and upset, and, at this point, I just wanted to be alone.
The next morning, I called a teaching assistant of the program, and I told her what happened and that I did not want to be in the same room as him. She was understanding. But, later in the day, I was told I had to meet with the directors of the program.
I went to meet with the directors - one of the directors was a Native woman. I told them my version of the incident, and they excused me. They interviewed several other people. Later, they brought me back into the interview room. I was sure they were going to, at least, make him take his end-of-the-program exams in another room; but they told me “I would have to deal with the situation and not report it” or else “I would not receive a letter of recommendation [from them].”
After they told me their decision, I was floored. This program that prides themselves on creating safe courtrooms for domestic violence victims basically told me not to tell anyone what happened to me. I was terrified, because I wanted a recommendation; so, I, ultimately, didn’t say anything.
I ended performing very well in the program, but after the program, I felt so ashamed and so dissapointed with myself. I felt like I was the agitator. Ultimately, I deferred law school for a year. During that year, I questioned everything. I had little to no self-esteem and gained so much weight, because I thought I was the problem.
During this year, I began working as a sex health educator. One morning, it dawned upon me - Nikke, how are you going to teach young people about self-respect and self-esteem if you don’t even have that in yourself? So, I began running and praying. I knew I needed to heal from this experience for myself, but I needed to heal in order to work with young Diné people.
It took me many months to begin to process what had happened to me, because I had so many questions - Why was I, a highly educated Native woman, instantly dismissed by the police?,Why did they placed the blame on me?, What was going on through this guy’s head? After I reported the incident to the program, why did the directors instantly dismiss me?, Why does this guy keep trying to contact me?. At some point, I knew I would have to accept that I probably would never have answers to my questions.
Following the school year, I had to decide where I would attend law school. I decided to attend the same law school as the the program as I participated in. I would have anxiety attacks before the semester, but I knew that this was the school I, ultimately, wanted to attend. Now, after two years in the school, I feel at ease, and, at heart, I feel healed.
After seeing domestic violence growing up and having my own encounters with violence, it does not surprise me that Native women do not report domestic violence, because law enforcement do not do anything, the blame is often pointed at the victim, and violence is often times pushed aside. This is why I’ve begun to write about sexual violence and violence against Native women. Like all things in the world, there is a beauty and ugliness to an element. Of course, I want to focus on the fun, beauteous and ceremonious part of sex and relationships, but there is also a negative side. Discussion regarding this negative side is much needed for our Native woman and communities to heal from violence.
♥ Miss Nikke
Nikke Alex is Diné (Navajo) originally from Dilcon, Arizona (Navajo Nation), USA. She has worked with Indigenous communities around the world to help fight fossil fuel development. Nikke, additionally, has worked with Indigenous youth throughout the world developing leadership pathway programs that value and reflect sustainability. In addition to working on environment issues, Nikke has worked as a sexual health educator in the Navajo Nation to ensure that young Diné received adequate sexual health education. Currently, Nikke is a law student at the University of New Mexico and is a blogger at MissNikke.com. - See more at: http://www.sovereignbodies.com/blog/reproductive-autonomy-is-a-human-right/#sthash.PYjLtXjt.dpuf