Healthy Relationship Bill of Rights


January 7, 2021

December 10 is Human Rights Day, as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the inalienable rights to which everyone is entitled as a human being - regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is the most translated document in the world and is available in more than 500 languages.

But what about a Healthy Relationship Bill of Rights?

You have rights in your relationship. Everyone does, and those rights can help you set boundaries that should be respected by all partners in a healthy relationship. Like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Healthy Relationship Bill of Rights is inalienable, regardless of gender or sexual identity.

You have the right to privacy, both online and off.

You have the right to feel safe and respected.

You have the right to participate in your culture and practice your spirituality.

You have the right to decide who you want to date or not date.

You have the right to say no at any time (to sex, to drugs or alcohol, to a relationship), even if you've said yes before.

You have the right to hang out with your relatives and friends and do things you enjoy, without your partner getting jealous or controlling.

You have the right to end a relationship that isn't right or healthy for you.

You have the right to live free from violence and abuse.

If you feel that your rights have been violated and want to talk, StrongHearts Native Helpline is here to help.

StrongHearts Native Helpline is a free, culturally-appropriate, and anonymous helpline for Native Americans and Alaska Natives impacted by domestic violence and dating violence. We acknowledge and support all victims regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or relationship status. If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, help is available.

Contact StrongHearts at 1-844-7NATIVE or click on the Chat Now icon to connect one-on-one with an advocate daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. As a collaborative effort of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, after-hour callers can connect with The Hotline by choosing option one.

StrongHearts' Healthy Relationship Bill of Rights has been adapted from The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Seasonal Depression Can Affect Domestic Violence Victim-Survivors

In the early months of winter, the number of daylight hours gets noticeably shorter and the nights longer. A change in season permeates the air with the sweet smell of fallen leaves and the air becomes crisp beckoning winter's snow. For most people, it's a joyous time of year when family and friends gather to spread holiday cheer. Yet for others, a waning spirit conjures feelings of dread as winter draws near.

December Is Seasonal Depression Awareness Month

December is Seasonal Depression Awareness Month when healthcare professionals see an increase in the number of patients seeking treatment for unexplained symptoms of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that most commonly occurs during the winter months. In the United States, 5 percent of the population experience symptoms of SAD that can include feelings of:


Extreme fatigue

Loss of pleasure and energy


Inability to concentrate

Irritability or anxiety

Social withdrawal

Seemingly uncontrollable urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods

The first symptoms of SAD usually occur in adulthood and are more frequently suffered by women. The severity of the syndrome often increases with geographical latitude, as well as prevalence, increasing from 5 percent to 10 percent of the population. Without treatment, the result can lead to weight gain, depression and strained relationships. When combined with a history of trauma and domestic violence, SAD can be deadly.

Domestic Violence and SAD

American Indian and Alaska Native women experience some of the highest rates of physical and sexual violence in the nation, however, before colonization, abuse and domestic violence were rare in tribal communities.

Domestic violence and dating violence happens when an intimate partner uses a repetitive pattern of abuse to maintain power and control over their partner. The abuse can physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a person from acting freely, or force them to behave in ways they do not want.

Abusive partners can be affected by SAD and attempt to exert more control over their partner. Victim-survivors may feel confused, afraid, angry and/or trapped. They may blame themselves for what is happening. These feelings may be more intense by the symptoms of seasonal depression.

High Rates of Suicide

Depression can lead to thoughts of suicide. Nationwide, American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) suffer the highest rates of suicide than any other racial/ethnic group. Study after study, decade after decade, suicide rates continue to rise. The ramifications of trauma and depression are felt by loved ones, family, friends and even co-workers.

Light Therapy May Help

The cause of SAD is unknown, but the onset is linked to light deprivation associated with winter's shorter days and longer nights. Seasonal depression caused by light deprivation can be mitigated using artificial light. Light therapy using bright light to mimic natural outdoor light affects brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep - thus easing symptoms of SAD and other types of depression, sleep disorders and conditions.

Traditional Methods

First and foremost, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help with the symptoms of seasonal depression. A routine schedule is key to maintaining a well-balanced circadian rhythm. Native people can also benefit from traditional teachings, practices and ceremonies as well as seeking out culturally-sensitive health providers. Here are some tips to help:

Get showered and get dressed. Use traditional medicines or aromatic lavender in a bath or enjoy a DIY facial. Lay down tobacco and/or smudge with sage. Wearing bright, colorful and comfortable clothing can impact your mood.

Brighten your environment. Open blinds and sit closer to bright windows.

Find time to move daily for at least thirty minutes. Search YouTube videos for a Pow-wow dance or yoga class and if all else fails, turn up the radio and dance like no one is watching. Learn how to traditional dance!

Develop a self-care toolkit. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (feel, taste, smell, hear, see) such as using a soft blanket, drinking hot cocoa, or burning a scented candle while looking at old photo albums. Help your child to create a comfort box (use a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) and fill it with comforting items to use when they feel overwhelmed. Promote connectivity with Mother Earth by adding traditional medicines such as sage, sweetgrass or cedar.

Share traditional seasonal teachings with relatives and friends

Seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

StrongHearts Can Help

At StrongHearts, we know that for victim-survivors the holidays can add even more strain or stress to their lives. We know that SAD may: hinder healthy relationships, contribute to unhealthy relationships, or even increase abusive behaviors or increase the severity of abuse in abusive relationships. If you need to talk about your relationship, StrongHearts can help.

Explore your options for safety and healing by visiting StrongHearts Native Helpline online for one-on-one chat advocacy or call 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483). Advocates are available daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. In collaboration with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) callers in need of help outside of regular hours can connect with The Hotline by choosing option one.


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