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FAP: Preventing Abuse, Protecting Victims

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2000 – DoD's Family Advocacy Program aims to prevent physical, sexual and emotional abuse in military families, protect victims when abuse occurs and treat all family members involved.

Spouse abuse, including emotional abuse and neglect without physical violence, occurs in about two of every 100 active duty military families, according to David Lloyd, DoD's Family Advocacy Program director. Nearly 75 percent of the reported abuse does not include any physical injury, he said. Only 5 percent is considered severe.

About 69 percent of the military's 12,000 substantiated incidents of domestic violence in fiscal 1999 were classified as "mild." DoD officials define "mild" as physical abuse or neglect with no or mild physical injury. It can also involve sexual abuse without physical contact and potentially harmful emotional abuse. No medical treatment is required in cases involving mild abuse.

About 24 percent of the incidents involved "moderate" violence, which DoD officials define as minor physical injury requiring one or more outpatient visits. It can also involve sexual contact without penetration and emotional injury requiring short-term mental health care.

Only 6 percent of the incidents involved "severe" violence, which DoD officials define as resulting in physical injury requiring inpatient treatment or causing temporary or permanent disfigurement. It can also include sexual contact with penetration and emotional injuries requiring long-term mental health care. Severe abuse may require alternative placement to protect the victim.

Defense officials say DoD data on spouse abuse should not be compared to data from civilian studies due to differences in definitions, scope, demographics and methodology. Civilian studies generally focus on women severely abused by a husband, boyfriend or ex-husband. DoD reports include victims who are husbands as well as wives, but excludes abuse when the couple is not currently married.

Civilian and DoD studies have to be statistically adjusted for population differences, since 85 percent of active duty military personnel are men aged 18 to 35, the highest risk group to commit physical violence, Lloyd said. Civilian studies are frequently conducted using self-reports, often via telephone surveys. DoD data, in comparison, is based on investigated reports verified by a multidisciplinary team at each installation.

Lloyd said every military installation worldwide with command- sponsored families has a Family Advocacy Program that provides the following services:

  • Prevention: sponsors and coordinates activities provided by family centers, chaplains, medical clinics and local civilian agencies such as public awareness campaigns, stress and anger management classes, couples counseling and violence prevention programs.
  • Identification: DoD policy requires that everyone report suspected cases of spouse abuse to the Family Advocacy Program. An annual public awareness campaign provides information on how to recognize spouse abuse and where to report suspected cases.
  • Command notification: Family Advocacy Program officials notify unit commanders of reported spouse abuse. The commander has the authority under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to protect the victim while the report is investigated.
  • Investigation: Family Advocacy Program officials ensure the appropriate law enforcement agency investigates reports of spouse abuse. Multidisciplinary teams review new cases to determine clinically whether abuse and neglect occurred and recommend treatment options to the commander.
  • Coordination with civilian authorities: Family Advocacy Program, military law enforcement and staff judge advocate officials coordinate their activities with civilian agency counterparts through memoranda of agreement.
  • Treatment: Family Advocacy Program treatment helps the victim recover and helps stop the abuser from attempting to use power and violence to control the victim. Treatment includes assessment, crisis intervention, shelter care, support groups, and individual, couples and group counseling. Installation commanders may use disciplinary or administrative sanctions instead of or in addition to treatment of a service member who is an abuser.
  • Transitional compensation and health benefits: If an abusing service member is discharged from the military due to abuse, the victim may receive health benefits and up to 36 months of compensation based on the service member's pay, for support while transitioning to civilian life.

Visit the DoD "Domestic Violence: DoD's Next Frontline" web site at www.defenselink.mil/specials/domesticviolence/.

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