The Puyallup Tribe of Indians' Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program seeks to address domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking in the Puyallup tribal community by using a holistic approach that emphasizes healing as a necessary component of justice. The program provides a broad range of victim services, including advocacy, in-court support, a women’s shelter, and support groups that bring tradition and culture into the healing process. In addition to victim services, the program runs a culturally-based program for offenders, where men can address their underlying issues and break the cycle of violence. Finally, the program engages the whole Puyallup community by increasing awareness of domestic violence and providing information about available services.
Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program
Program Running Length: 1998 - Present
Problem to Be Addressed
Before the program opened in 1998, domestic violence was a major challenge in the Puyallup Tribal community. There were few resources available to assist victims, and it was difficult to address the problem holistically using the western adversarial court model. Puyallup elders felt that the tribe was not able to address violence in ways that allowed the family and community to find healing. The Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program sought to address those gaps by increasing access to services for victims, creating opportunities for healing among those who have been affected by domestic violence, and educating the community.
The Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program seeks to help victims and families who are experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking. The program serves both male and female victims, but only women and their children are allowed in the shelter. The program is primarily designed to serve tribal members, but it is open to anyone who calls the program hotline, including individuals living with tribal members and other Natives Americans living on tribal land.
In the mid-1990s, several severe incidents of domestic violence in the Puyallup community motivated an elder named Carol Walker to create the Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program. At the time, a lack of resources and coordination among law enforcement, prosecution, court, and service providers made it extremely difficult to offer support to victims and address domestic violence effectively.
Ms. Walker approached tribal leaders about the need to increase access to justice for victims of domestic violence and was eventually hired as program coordinator. She convened a multidisciplinary team, which in 1996 applied for and won a Social and Economic Development Strategies grant from the Administration for Native Americans. The grant enabled the tribe to contract with Katherine Horne, of the South Puget Inter-Tribal Planning Agency, to help develop the tribe’s first comprehensive domestic violence action plan.
During the next few years, the program hired several new domestic violence advocates and began conducting trainings with the tribal court judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers to help departments work together to protect victims and families in the tribe.
The Domestic Violence Advocacy Program encountered some challenges in the early 2000s, such as losing its office as a result of the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake, and later, cuts to its program staff because of funding issues. In 2009, however, the tribal council donated a 5-bedroom house to the program and allocated funding to remodel the house into program offices and a children’s playroom. In 2015, the program was awarded several competitive grants from the Department of Justice, which have allowed the program to expand and strengthen their existing services.
The program staff has worked hard to ensure that Puyallup traditions have been incorporated into the program. At its core, the Community Domestic Violence Program is about finding healing within the self as part of seeking justice. To help victims and survivors find healing, program staff have created a curriculum that incorporates Puyallup values. Additionally, the program uses traditional drum circles and the gift of singing to help victims and abusers move through the healing process.
The program has three primary goals:
- Help victims of domestic violence, and the community, to find safety and healing.
- Advocate for positive changes in the justice system’s response to domestic violence.
- Increase community awareness around domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
Domestic Violence Treatment Program
Community Outreach and Public Education
Sexual Assault Program
Sexual Assault Program: The program has recently received a grant to begin offering advocacy and outreach to victims of sexual assault and will be expanding their services to offer a sexual assault women’s support group. Also under this new grant, the program will be developing and performing a silent play focusing on understanding the dynamics of sexual assault and healing.
The program’s main office houses the program director, legal advocate, community advocate, children’s activity coordinator, office assistant, and two counselors. Separately, the shelter is run by eight full-time staff—seven “house sisters” and one shelter manager/advocate.
Case Flow Process
The Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program works with victims and families who are experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking. The program serves both male and female victims, but only women and their children are allowed in the shelter. Though the program’s primary focus is on members of the Puyallup Tribe, it provides services to anyone who calls their hotline, include individuals who are living with tribal members or those living on tribal land.
Clients can be referred by the tribal court, Kwawachee Mental Health, and Takopid Health Authority. In addition, the program is open to walk-ins and self-referrals, including individuals who call the hotline for help.
Supervision and Compliance
Victims Services – There are no supervision and compliance requirements for the victim services component of the program’s work as all services are voluntary.
Batterers Program – The program reports to probation and the court regarding participants’ compliance with the batterers program.
Program services are terminated only when the client and advocate determine that he or she is no longer in need of services. The shelter generally limits a client's stay to six weeks, during which staff assist women in setting goals to stabilize their lives, find employment, and secure safe housing. Shelter stays can be extended if a client needs more time and is working to become independent.
PLANNING & IMPLEMENTATION
The Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program was initially funded by the Administration for Native Americans. In 1996, the program also received a STOP Violence Against Women grant from the Department of Justice to build program infrastructure, revise the tribe’s domestic violence code, and develop a comprehensive domestic violence action plan. STOP Violence Against Women funding continued until 2006 and was used to enhance the advocacy program, offer trainings, and develop protocols, policies, and procedures. STOP funds were also used to create weekly support groups, increase prosecution of domestic violence cases, and support court-mandated participation in the batterers program.
From 1998 to 2005, the program received funding from the Department of Justice’s Grants to Encourage Arrest Program. This funding enabled tribal law enforcement to hire a domestic violence investigator and allowed the prosecutor’s office to hire two support staff. In addition, funding helped the program provide training for tribal court judges, develop a domestic violence bench book, and increase collaboration between tribal, state, and regional domestic violence task forces.
Additional funding has also come from the federal Administration for Children and Families, Office for Victims of Crime, and Office on Violence Against Women. This funding has allowed the program to enhance services for victims, such as hiring a domestic violence treatment counselor and implementing the Safe Paths curriculum.
The program often contracts with the WomenSpirit Coalition, located in Olympia, Washington. Among other services, the WomenSpirit Coalition has helped the program administer sexual assault trainings, offer staff self-assessments, and refine the program’s policies and procedures.
The Community Domestic Violence Advocacy Program developed early relationships with Mending the Sacred Hoop, located in Minnesota, and Sacred Circle (Cangleska), from South Dakota. The program has also partnered with several local organizations, such Warrior Spirit, in order to offer additional programing including Leap of Faith, an empowerment retreat and training program for survivors of domestic violence.
Factors Contributing to Success
According to program staff, three main factors contributed to the program's success:
- Grant Funding – Grants funding has been crucially important to building and maintaining the program for nearly 20 years.
- Tribal Funding – In recent years, the tribe has been a main source of program funding and has supported the continued expansion and enhancement of the program.
- Committed Staff – Program staff have been willing to go beyond their job descriptions to keep facilities and programs running, and to help keep victims safe.
- Staff Shortage – Maintaining sufficient staff to run the programs and the shelter has proved difficult. Although there are technically eight full-time staff at the shelter, illness, family medical leave, and other issues often mean that the shelter is run by as few as four staff.
- Burn Out – Staff are asked to work very hard, put in significant overtime, and deal with challenging and emotional situations. There are times when staff can feel overwhelmed. The program director explained that it can “feel like I’ve picked up sand and it’s going through my fingers.”
- Shelter Location – The shelter is located in an isolated area. This location helps to keep victims safe, but it also poses challenges. Many clients don’t have a car, and the nearest bus stop is miles away. This lack of reliable transportation makes it extremely difficult for victims staying at the shelter to seek employment and access other needed resources.
“Each client has their own experiences and deserves to be supported in their life.”
The program serves over 200 clients per year. In 2013, there were 178 clients who actively used the Domestic Violence Advocacy Program in addition to over 400 one-time contacts. The program also housed 30 women and 35 children in the shelter that year.
The program measures its effectiveness using the following performance measures.
- Number of people served and the services provided.
- Clients are safe.
- Clients no longer need services.
- Clients become more self-sufficient and need less assistance.
- Clients obtain their own safe housing.
- Clients learn how to set healthy boundaries.
- Clients start providing advocacy and referring other clients to resources.
- Clients graduate from the domestic violence treatment program.
- Clients form friendships in the program.
During a women’s circle, one newer client asked for help and a long-time client offered suggestions for resolving housing issues and getting a restraining order. “It is always rewarding to see the clients take the knowledge they have gained and pass it along to support each other.”
One woman who struggled for months to find housing finally rented a place and got furniture with the help of program staff. She is excited and happy to be living in a secure space of her own.
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