WILSON, Mich. (WZMQ) – In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Hannahville Indian Community gathered on Thursday morning for the annual domestic violence awareness parade.
According to Hannahville Victim Services, it is an issue that continues to plague Native families.
“We have a relatively high victimization rate, and it’s higher than the national average,” said outreach coordinator Victoria Steinhausen. “Three in four Native women experience domestic violence in their lifetime.”
“Over 50 percent of the cases that we deal with here in Hannahville are domestic violence calls,” Hannahville Victim Services director Wendy Middaugh said. “That means it’s something that happens all the time. There’s violence everywhere in the world. Our homes need to be a refuge, not a warzone.”
The parade was led by some of the community’s Elders, who hope to be an example to the youth.
“Look at us maybe for some advice and guidance because we’ve been there and did that, and most of us actually have been violated in one way, shape, or form,” said Elder Donna Viers. “It’s good for us to speak up.”
“We want our young people to see that we, as Elders, care for them and that we’re here to help them if they need help,” added Mary Meshigaud.
The leader of Girl Scout Troop 5149 is ensuring some of the community’s youngest women learn about domestic violence at an early age. She also wants them to be equipped to lead the fight against it as they grow.
“Unfortunately we live in a society where it happens to the littles just as much, and they have to learn how to speak for themselves as well,” troop leader Felisia Izzi said. “It starts with our littles to make changes.”
Many in the parade are enduring the lasting impact of domestic violence in their own lives, including Elder Karen Miller.
“I lost my mother because of domestic violence,” Miller said. “No matter how many years later, it gets a little easier to live, but you’ll never forget. You don’t ever forget what happened.”
The parade led to an informational fair, where guests learned about resources available to those searching for a way out of a dangerous situation.
“My mom told me this advice, ‘We can’t replace you, but we can replace your things,'” said Hannahville Tribal Council member Amanda Hess. “If you’re not sure what to do, go to your local hospital—they can help you there. I didn’t have any family or help, or even a Tribe nearby. My neighbor brought me to the local hospital, where they called the shelter. That’s how I got out.”
“Domestic violence is not traditional,” Middaugh said. “It’s not what we expect to happen, but it’s everywhere. [The parade] helps us to focus on people who are victims of domestic violence.”
Organizations represented at the informational fair included Hannahville Victim Services, Tri-County Safe Harbor, and Caring House. Click on the name of each organization to learn more about resources available to domestic violence survivors.