By Tilden Bird
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and the Three Affiliated Tribes Victim Services, formerly known as the Fort Berthold Coalition Against Domestic Violence, helps victims of all kinds. Whether an individual is suffering from domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, or the aftermath of a heinous crime, Victim Services provides support.
“We changed our name to open up to more victims of crime, and not just domestic violence and sexual violence,” said TAT Victim Services Director Sadie Young Bird.
The program now assists victims of non-relationship assaults, families of murder victims, and other victims of crimes in addition to the victims of sexual assault, elder abuse, human trafficking, child sexual assault and domestic violence.
In the first few months of 2016, Victim Services has dealt with 56 counts of domestic violence, 12 sexual assaults, two cases of elder abuse, and one case of stalking. Numbers on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation may be higher, however, Victim Services dealt with only these cases.
“Our crimes are still up,” Young Bird said of the cases taken on by Victim Services. “Last month, we had a lot of child sexual assaults. Just because the oil is gone doesn’t mean our crime is gone. Actually, we seem like we’re just as busy as when the boom started. Now we have a lot of people who are without income who are turning to drugs and alcohol, which turns into violence and abuse.”
The Three Affiliated Tribes Victim Services office is located north of the 4 Bears Casino, near the former Minni Tohe Clinic. Victims seeking assistance in segments far from the office are able to call Victim Services and advocates are dispatched to the segment in need.
Victim Services has a shelter located in Mandaree for women and children. The shelter has been closed for a number of months due to plumbing problems. However, the shelter will soon reopen, likely in mid-April. Victim Services also provides shelter in an undisclosed area in order to provide additional safety and services for those who need it.
“We have a dedicated, close group of staff that would do almost anything for a victim. They’re awesome,” Young Bird said.
Currently the program consists of Young Bird, the director, six advocates, a community outreach coordinator, an executive assistant, a business manager, a shelter supervisor, four shelter advocates, and a men’s reeducation coordinator.
The nature of Victim Services is primarily reactive through helping victims of crimes, however, the program is also proactive. Through their community outreach coordinator, Victim Services goes to schools, Boys and Girls Club of the Three Affiliated Tribes, and the Justice Center and speaks to adults and children. The program also goes to “lunch and learns” with elders of Fort Berthold so individuals know what TAT Victim Services is and what they offer.
Due to the decrease in oil revenue for the MHA Nation, the program has been forced to cope with budget cuts.
“I have to cut my budget straight across the board by fifteen percent. The whole tribe does,” said Young Bird. “We don’t have a lot of operating costs right now so we’re just trying to figure out what we can do.”
“Our victim services haven’t changed. I did not cut anything from the actual execution of services or what we’re able to provide for victims. I’ve been able to save all that within grants,” Young Bird stated.
“We’re available to help, refer people to us, even if you have any questions or anything about any type of crime, especially sexual violence this month, come to us and we’ll help you,” said Young Bird.
“If you just want some ideas or some guidance, if you have a family member you know has been affected, or a friend, or even yourself… Come to us,” she continued. “We’ll give you advice. We don’t have to necessarily do an intake. We don’t necessarily have to open a case. We can just be there to bounce ideas and be people’s support as well.”
Victim Services hopes to bring sexual assault awareness to Fort Berthold for the month of April by helping children prevent child sexual assault by talking about “good touch, bad touch,” and by holding a walk/run. The plans are still in the works for the event.
Anyone interested in donating to TAT Victim Services can send gently used children’s clothes and hygiene products.
Three Affiliated Tribes Victim Services can be reached at (701) 627-4171.