Four out of five Native Americans have experienced violence in their lifetimes, according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). That’s why members of the Native American Journalists Association wanted to bring attention to domestic violence and sexual assault in tribal communities.
During a Thursday afternoon session at this year’s Excellence in Journalism Conference, Princella RedCorn, communications officer at the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center; Mallory Black, communications manager at StrongHearts Native Helpline; and Mary Hudetz, a criminal justice reporter for the Associated Press, shared important tips and resources journalists should consider when reporting on violence and abuse in Indian Country.
“Being up front and knowledgeable with those you want to interview is crucial,” Hudetz said. “This is about building trust with the community. If you mess up or you aren’t having conversations with the source about how the story could affect them, that could be really upsetting for them, and distrust spreads fast. If you handle that correctly, though, you will have more sources from that community and the ability to report further.”
In addition to providing ways to carefully interview survivors, speakers also presented journalists with information that can help news stories become more contextual, including government sites like GovTrack.us and document databases such as PACER.
Millions of Native women, men and children across the country directly experience physical, sexual, mental, emotional abuse and threats of violence in their intimate relationships, according to the NIJ. One of the most important things reporters can do in their stories, besides reporting the news itself, is providing factual, statistical information in their work, Hudetz said. “There’s still a broken system in place, and context is so important for these stories.”
Moving forward, Black said she would like to see victims and survivors obtain better access to the resources they need in addition to more legislation changes that will make it harder for offenders to get away with crimes in Indian Country and against Native women and children.
“We have this reality right now that things are bleak, but the hope is that we will dig into some more solutions,” Black said. “We’re seeing some signs of progress, and I think sharing stories and resources will help move things forward even more.”