Family Justice Center offers hope and healing for families
By Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr.
October 2, 2023
On Aug. 25, Chief Batton and I had the honor of participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of the Ahni Center at the Chief Gregory E. Pyle Tribal Complex in Durant. The center is the first tribal Family Justice Center of its kind in Oklahoma’s Indian Country. “Ahni” translates to “hope” in the Choctaw language.
The Ahni Center will address the physical and emotional needs of victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault and have services available to begin the healing process. When fully operational, the Ahni Center will provide for forensic interviews, Sexual Assault Nursing Exams for adults and children, and therapy for child and adult victims. In addition, the Ahni Center will give referrals for victim services, assistance with victim services applications, victim advocacy, and court preparation.
Chief Batton’s Oct. 2 video blog announces the opening of the Family Justice Center and what it means for the Choctaw Nation. The center is another way that the Choctaw Nation is highlighting its focus on helping curb domestic violence across the reservation. There are also several domestic violence programs available to tribal members. Domestic violence programs offered by the Choctaw Nation include: Project EMPOWER, Victim Assistance Formula Grant, Project SERV, Project HOUSE, Essential Life Skills, and Tribal Set-a-Side. For more information check out choctawnation.com and get help for you and your family.
The Choctaw Nation will be shining a spotlight on Domestic Violence Awareness Month with planned events. These events include:
- Flowers on the Pond Vigil at 10 a.m. on Oct. 5 at the Choctaw Nation Headquarters in Durant, Oklahoma.
- Shine the Light on Domestic Violence at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the Hugo Wellness Center Pond. The event will feature a glow run/walk and candlelight vigil. The night event will be hosted by Choctaw Nation Family Violence Prevention Department and Choctaw Nation Wellness Center.
According to the most recent study from the National Institute of Justice: American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women are at a significantly higher risk for domestic violence than others. More than 4 in 5 AI/AN women (84.3 percent) have experienced violence in their lifetime. More than half of AI/AN women (56.1 percent) have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, and more than half (55.5 percent) have experienced physical violence by intimate partners in their lifetime.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers these suggestions to victims of domestic violence:
- Tell others you trust, such as friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, what is happening and talk about ways they might be able to help.
- Memorize emergency numbers for the local police, support persons and crisis hotlines. For example, the National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
- Identify escape routes and places to go if you need to flee from an unsafe situation quickly.
- Talk with your children and/or other household members about what they should do if a violent incident occurs or if they are afraid.
- Put together an emergency bag with money/checkbooks, extra car keys, medicine, and important papers such as birth certificates, social security cards, immigration documents, and medical cards. Keep it somewhere safe and accessible, such as with a trusted friend or at your place of work.
- Trust your instincts — if you think you are in immediate danger, you probably are. If you are afraid for your safety and want the police to come to where you are now, call 911.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact the Choctaw Nation by calling 1-800-522-6170 or by going to choctawnation.com to find a help center and come up with a plan.
Or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). There is also a phone line for deaf, speech-impaired, or hard-of-hearing victims at 1-800-787-3224 for talk to text. There is also a secure online chat: thehotline.org or text “loveis” to 22522 to develop a detailed, safety plan that is specific to your unique situation.
Yakoke and God Bless!