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Role of Physical Activity Among Native American Survivors of Domestic Violence

Been, Nicole Marie
Native American women have the highest rate of domestic violence than any other population and experience two to three times more violence than any other ethnicity (Saylor's & Daliparthy, 2006). The trauma associated with such incidences often does not end when the assault does; the psychological distress associated with domestic violence includes depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and suicide among others (Bryant-Davis, Chung, & Tillman, 2009). Over the last twenty years a great deal of research has focused on domestic violence, including attempts to discover coping strategies that women can employ to protect themselves from the psychological impact of victimization. Although literature has highlighted intervention efforts, utilization of these services by Native American's is extremely low due to numerous barriers specifically faced by this population (Olsen & Wahab, 2004). One non-traditional coping strategy that has been overlooked is the role of physical activity. Prior research has demonstrated the important relationship between physical activity and mental health, including improved symptoms of depression, the most commonly reported outcome of domestic violence (Scully, Kremer, Meade, Graham & Dudgeon, 1998). The purpose of this study was to determine if regular participation in physical activity, including cultural/traditional forms of Native American physical activity, has an impact on self-reported symptoms of depression in Native American female survivors of domestic violence. The participants were thirteen Native American women representing various tribes in the state of Oklahoma. Each participant completed a packet of surveys that included: (1) a demographic form, (2) the Beck Depression Inventory-II for measuring symptoms of depression, and (3) the Modifiable Activity Questionnaire used to assess the physical activity levels of participants. The Spearman rho was utilized to analyze data in order to determine the correlation between self-reported levels of physical activity and depression among participants for both mainstream/non-traditional and cultural/traditional forms of Native American physical activity. The results showed no statistical significance among variables at an alpha level of 0.05. There was an observed negative trending correlation for self-reported symptoms of depression and mainstream physical activity participation, and for self-reported symptoms of depression and cultural/traditional forms of Native American physical activity participation. Further studies are needed to determine if, and how, physical activity participation, both mainstream and cultural/traditional Native American physical activity, can be utilized to cope with symptoms of depression in Native American women who are survivors of domestic violence. Implications and suggestions for future studies are discussed.