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Tribe gets half million dollar grant to fight domestic violence, sexual assault

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AKWESASNE - The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Three Sisters program, which provides intervention and services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, recently received a $596,071 federal grant to pay for training and resources.

“A lot of it will be spent... to bring training to our area to handle sexual assault and domestic violence,” Three Sisters Program Manager Amber Montour said Friday.

She added that some of it will be spent to train local law enforcement and prosecutors.

“It’s to improve service and response, to make sure they’re (police and prosecutors) victim-centered,” Ms. Montour said.

She said the United States Department of Justice has released statistics saying that one of three Native American will suffer a domestic or sexual assault at some point in their life and of those four out of five will be victimized at the hands of a non-Native.

She said she does not know if those statistics are true for Akwesasne, and some of the grant will help them compile information of that nature. Ms. Montour said the program handled 15 sex offenses and 35 domestic violence cases between January and July, .

“Our program that addresses sexual assault is the first in our community to do so,” Ms. Montour said.

She noted the grant will also help pay for sexual assault advocates who help victims through the legal process and offer access to traditional healing, safe home advocates who help victims who have taken refuge in the Three Sisters safe house, and emergency intervention funds, which help pay for essentials for victims who are in a drastic enough situation they leave home with just the clothes on their back.

She said emergency intervention funds can pay for staples such as food, clothing, diapers, and infant formula. The safe house is just that – a safe haven at a location that is kept secret so victims can get help with leaving an abusive home situation.

Three Sisters provides professional services including a first-response sexual assault response and resource team (SAART) and two sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE). In addition, should someone wish to pursue criminal charges against an assailant, Ms. Montour said they work with Assistant Franklin County District Attorney Gary Pasqua and Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Horseman.

Ms. Montour stressed victims are not under obligation to report an instance of domestic violence or sexual assault to awl enforcement and are free to terminate service from Three Sisters at any time.

Three Sisters can provide supervised visitation and exchange of children with a parent. She said the premises are under surveillance and are under guard.

“We realize this process can change a woman forever, and we want to help empower them, help them heal,” Ms. Montour said. “We’re here for them and there’s a lot of us here for them.”

To get help from the Three Sisters program, call their 24-hour hot line at 1(855)-374-7837 (SISTER) or call the office at (518)358-4406.

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