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DOD Offers Help to Prevent Domestic Violence

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2011 – Helping military couples and families build healthy relationships can help to prevent domestic violence, a Defense Department official said today.

Kathy Robertson, program manager for DOD’s Family Advocacy Program, said spouses with strong trust and good communication skills can address relationship problems before they escalate.

When violence does occur, Robertson said, the department offers a range of support resources for victims, beginning with reporting options.

Domestic violence victims can choose either restricted or unrestricted reporting options, and in both cases can receive medical help and counseling support, she said.

Unrestricted reporting involves notifying the chain of command, and appropriate first-responder law enforcement agencies. Restricted, or confidential reporting, which a victim can do by contacting a Family Advocacy Program victim advocate, counselor, health care provider or chaplain, allows a victim to receive medical, counseling and advocacy help while taking time to decide whether to proceed with an unrestricted report, Robertson said.

Restricted reporting is not possible in cases involving child abuse, or when a victim advocate judges the person reporting is in imminent danger, she noted.

The restricted reporting option has been in place since 2006, and is intended to offer domestic violence victims a chance to seek help despite fears they might feel based on their situation, Robertson said.

“A lot of times, victims don’t want to come forward -- they’re afraid to come forward,” she added.

Often in such cases, Robertson said, abuse has escalated over time, and victims –- especially military spouses -- may fear loss of finances, housing and family security. Restricted reporting offers them a safe avenue to help, she added.

Family advocacy staff members can help victims identify their options and make an informed decision about what to do next, she said.

“There are many families [we help] with intervention and treatment; they are able to reconcile, work things out and stay together,” she said. “Every case is individual.”

The department offers a range of on- and off-post counseling options, classes, and individual and group therapy, Robertson noted, and Family Advocacy representatives can help in guiding people to appropriate help.

“Military life is very challenging; it’s lots of long hours [and] deployments,” she said, adding that good communication can help couples work through the challenges.

“With a significant other, you know how to push each other’s buttons and pull those triggers,” she said. “We help them recognize those signs and get help before an incident happens -- or after an incident happens, help them … [identify] those triggers … and improve their communication and their trust.”


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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

10/3/2011 11:11:52 AM
Because military service, especially deployments, create situations that may result in spousal and child abuse, reporting options offer important choices to military spouses experiencing domestic violence. However, domestic violence is not about pushing buttons or pulling triggers. Instead, it is the use of fear and intimidation to control a partner. The threats of a batterer are real and when threats are no longer effective, such as when a victim reports the situation, violence often ensues. While counseling for both victim and batterer can be successful, couples counseling is not appropriate or effective when domestic abuse is present.
- Mary Lee Hafley, Fort Worth, TX

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