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Research addresses violence against indigenous women

For the past seven years, Tulane School of Social Work Assistant Professor Dr. Catherine Burnette has researched a troubling topic – violence against indigenous women and the related health disparities.

Now, her recently published article forms a brand new model to help those in need.

“This is a culmination of all the research that I’ve done so far,” she said. “It’s very exciting to get to this point and see a way that we can make a difference in people’s lives.”

“Historical Oppression, Resilience, and Transcendence: Can a Holistic Framework Help Explain Violence Experienced by Indigenous People?”, co-authored with colleague and Paul Henry Kurzweg Chair in Disaster Mental Health Dr. Charles Figley, was published this month in Social Work, a journal of the National Association of Social Workers.

Burnette said no research based framework currently exists to understand or explain why indigenous people experience such high rates of violence, especially regarding violence against indigenous women. This gap in the research has spurred her efforts.

“This article looks at colonization and how that affects social and health outcomes, and then it also looks at resilience and how people overcome and actually transcend oppression,” she said. “We also did a follow up study, and … created a measure of historical oppression and family resilience that predicts outcomes like depression and intimate partner violence. It turns out that broader oppression is related to these mental health and social outcomes.”

According to Burnette, this is the first known framework that connects structural causes to social and health outcomes, which is an important innovation. After years of research including several previous articles that support the framework, she said this was the final synthesis of all that information. However, the efforts to help those in need continue.

Ultimately, she hopes to provide an intervention that addresses historical oppression and related health disparities related to violence, substance abuse, and mental health among indigenous communities.

Published November 18, 2016. Written by Joseph Halm, Tulane PR.