The dominant culture creates scarcity and promotes abuse of power. We are all taught that there is always someone who has control over you and your needs. But if we value and practice interdependence—if we do not objectify anything or anyone—we will not objectify children or commit violence. Every person has the same value and worth. If we believe this—if we help children see their value and importance to the larger community and the world—child sexual abuse cannot happen
The Challenge: Historical trauma has altered the very DNA of indigenous people. An accurate understanding of this trauma is essential to understanding the systemic oppression that is at the root of child sexual abuse. Racism and the systematic marginalization of indigenous people stem from a power-relation that first began when the European occupiers came to the Americas. Residential boarding schools were the sites of horrific rates of child sexual abuse against indigenous ancestors and elders, the trauma of which continues to be visited upon indigenous children today.
The Solution: Leverage an understanding of historical trauma to develop a means of intervention, healing and prevention of child sexual abuse in indigenous communities. Make the incidence of child sexual abuse and all forms of violence unthinkable through a cultural shift that incorporates indigenous traditions and values prior to colonization.
The Strategy: Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition (VBCIC) believes that adults and communities are responsible for the well-being of children and that all forms of abuse can be prevented by changing the structural system from one of oppression to one of shared equity and justice for all living beings. Building on years of successful violence prevention work in indigenous communities, VBCIC created the “Walking in Balance with All Our Relations” child sexual abuse prevention curriculum. Featuring twelve modules based on indigenous values and traditions, the curriculum provides historical perspective; promotes fundamental structural change as necessary for peace, justice and harmonious relationships to be the norm; and includes the healing and treatment of those who harm as a key piece of primary prevention. Presented in Talking Stick Circle, the curriculum is taught from cradle to grave, fully integrated into the very fabric of indigenous life. VBCIC will promote this curriculum and its community-based evaluation tools throughout the Northeast and, eventually, to national prominence as an effective means of eliminating child sexual abuse and all forms of violence not only in indigenous communities but in multicultural communities as well. VBCIC will translate the curriculum into indigenous languages allowing for maximum accessibility and cultural relevance.
VBCIC utilizes a social-ecological model developed by the Centers for Disease Control that uses a four-level approach to violence prevention and addresses the complexity of relationships among individuals, the community and the larger society. VBCIC educates adults and community members through a primary prevention strategy that promotes healthy relationships based on gender equity and gender neutrality, embracing a non-binary approach to sexual identity. It is our goal to recognize the signs of child sexual abuse and adopt a restorative community approach in healing and accountability for all involved—individuals, families and the community. VBCIC is seeking to decolonize indigenous people and teach indigenous traditional values in a curriculum that is expected to change how we organize and live our lives.
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