Department Increases Efforts to End Domestic Abuse
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2010 Whether a withering comment or a fist raised in anger, the Defense Department is working to put an end to all levels of domestic abuse within the military, a defense official said today.
“We want [our families] to be strong and healthy, and we’re committed to helping you in every way we can to deal with the pressures and stresses of service, particularly those associated with overseas contingencies,” David Lloyd, director of the DOD’s family advocacy program, said in an interview with American Forces Press Service.
Along with the nation, DOD is observing National Domestic Violence Awareness Month this month by stepping up efforts to shed light on the problem of domestic abuse and resources to prevent it.
Domestic abuse encompasses emotional and physical violence, and can range from economic control and constant belittling to a violent threat or assault, Lloyd explained.
National statistics indicate that one in four women will become a victim of domestic violence within her lifetime, and on average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country each day. Yet, domestic violence is one of the most chronically underreported crimes.
The military is working to change that fact within its ranks. Victims are encouraged to report abuse incidents promptly and are offered two reporting options to do so: restricted and unrestricted. Under restricted reporting, victims who report the abuse to a victim advocate or health care provider can receive advocacy services, but without involvement from law enforcement or the command, Lloyd explained.
Unrestricted reporting provides victims with an official investigation of an incident, as well as advocacy services, information about legal rights, assistance in obtaining benefits within the military and civilian communities, and assessments of safety and medical needs.
DOD also has intensified its intervention and prevention efforts, particularly in the wake of nearly a decade of war and associated stressors, Lloyd said. Officials have deployed contracted licensed clinical providers to installations worldwide to bolster the support available to active duty and reserve members and their families affected by deployment. These providers offer training and nonmedical counseling before, during and after deployment.
Families also have access to round-the-clock counseling and problem-solving support through Military OneSource by calling 1-800-342-9647 or online at http://www.militaryonesource.com.
Thanks in part to these efforts, the military has experienced a steady decline in the number of domestic abuse cases reported to the family advocacy program since 2000, from 19,479 total reports in 2000 to 15,939 total reports in 2008, Lloyd said. The rates per 1,000 couples for total reports also have significantly declined, he said, noting a drop in total reports from 28.4 per thousand in 2000 to 22.2 per thousand in 2008. In 2009, the number of total reports increased to 18,208 though, he said, underscoring the need for constant vigilance.
People who suspect someone they know is being abused should contact military law enforcement, the family advocacy program or the servicemember’s command, Lloyd advised.
Victims of abuse should seek help as early as possible, Lloyd said, whether through a victim advocate, health care provider, military family life consultant or chaplain. Or they can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Servicemembers and their families stationed overseas can call the American Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center toll free internationally at 1-866-USWOMEN or visit http://www.866uswomen.org.
If there’s a threat of danger, victims can contact the commander and request a military protective order or request one from a civilian court, Lloyd said. The one thing victims shouldn’t do is suffer in silence, he added.
“The worst thing that can happen is for people to maintain silence so that the abuse continues and escalates,” he said.