Woman walking to raise awareness of domestic violence against Native women
More than a third of the world's women are suffering violence at the hands of their partners according to research in 80 countries. The study's findings will form the basis of new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization. (June 20)
Ema Thompson hopes to create dialogue on issue
SHIPROCK — Each step taken by Ema Thompson north on U.S. Highway 491 today was part of her effort to bring awareness for domestic violence victims and to create dialogue on the issue.
Thompson, 60, said she started walking in communities on and near the Navajo Nation because her late daughter, Trish Dawes, 34, was a victim of domestic violence.
"She was a good-hearted girl. She always laughed, and she wasn't selfish. She always thought of the next person. …I hate to say this, but I think that's what got her killed," Thompson said.
Thompson, 60, said a month ago, another daughter was seriously injured in a domestic violence incident.
"I decided to give my sorrows a voice. It's not me that these things are happening to. It's happening across our reservations and out there in the cities, where our children are," she said.
Seven people joined Thompson, also known as Grandma Ema, on the walk that started at the junction of Highway 491 and Navajo Route 36 and ended at the Shiprock Chapter house.
By increasing awareness, Thompson wants to break social barriers and develop open discussion among tribal members about domestic violence.
"We need to start talking to each other and we need to say, 'Enough is enough,'" she said.
A May 2016 report by the National Institute of Justice states that four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
One of the posters Thompson carries while walking has a photo of Dawes, taken when she graduated from a vocational school in Albuquerque in the 1990s.
Sheep Springs resident Ouray Denetclaw Benally has been walking with Thompson after he saw her travel on Arizona Highway 264 in October.
At that time, Thompson walked from Gallup to Window Rock, Ariz., where she shared her message with tribal officials on Oct. 19.
Thompson has also completed walks in Chinle, Ariz., and in Gallup and Crownpoint.
Benally said he understands the impact of domestic violence because he saw his father physically abuse his mother and sisters while growing up.
"I do remember being little and hiding under a bed when my dad would be going crazy and beating up my mom. I was too little to do anything," he said.
As a father of seven children, Benally said he is breaking the cycle by teaching them to respect themselves and others and by talking to them about domestic violence.
"I love my children, and every day I think about how the world is, where it's headed. The only way to change that is to start making the changes now," he said.
His daughter, Rhea Denetclaw Benally, participated because she wanted to learn more about the issue and pass along the message to her peers.
"Ema is doing her part to make sure the Navajo Nation hears what she has to say," the 16-year-old said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.