Getting help: Domestic violence awareness and support

By Jacqueline M. Hames, Soldiers Live
There are resources available for victims of domestic violence. (DOD graphic by Peggy Frierson)

There are resources available for victims of domestic violence. (DOD graphic by Peggy Frierson)

Domestic violence is a serious problem in both the Army and civilian worlds. It is an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and is illegal in all U.S. states and territories.

According to the Department of Defense, domestic violence includes assault, battery, threats to injure or kill, other acts of force or violence, or emotional maltreatment inflicted on a spouse or unmarried intimate partner sharing living quarters or a child in common. It also includes former spouses or former intimate partners. Sadly, domestic violence not only affects the spouses or intimate partners involved, children are often present and affected mentally and emotionally if not physically by the strife and violence between the people they most love and look to for care and guidance.

Col. Anthony Cox, program manager at the Headquarters Department of the Army Family Advocacy, said many Soldiers and civilians alike are afraid to speak out, either because of fear of retaliation from their abuser, or because of the perceived stigma and embarrassment associated with being a victim. However, it takes strength and courage to break the silence and seek help – for yourself, for your family, for your future.

It also takes strength and courage to ask hard, intimate questions when you suspect a friend, family member, colleague or subordinate is experiencing domestic violence. Ask questions; get them help. The worst impression you will leave is that you cared enough to ask.

You can:

- Seek help at Military OneSource, a joint military Internet platform where you can find things like voluntary counseling programs or speak to a professional anonymously 24/7 at 800-342-9647. You can also find tips for what to do if you experience abuse and don’t know where to start. (http://www.militaryonesource.mil/abuse?content_id=266706)

- Contact the Family Advocacy Program (http://www.militaryonesource.mil/phases-military-leadership?content_id=266712) on your local installation (available at Army Community Service or at the local medical treatment facility/hospital). There, you can work with a victim’s advocate to find medical and legal aid, shelter and counseling. The advocate will also help you develop a family safety plan, file a military protective order or restraining order, help explain military reporting options, and provide information about civilian and military responses to domestic violence. Counseling and treatment programs are available through the military medical system. The programs available through the FAP help assess what is going on with a family, how risky the situation is, and what can be done to resolve it, Cox said.

If an unrestricted, or “high-risk,” report of domestic violence to the FAP program is made, both civilian law enforcement and military chains of command are notified. Cox explained the FAP works very closely with commanders, and civilian agencies, like Child Protective Services and police departments, to ensure the victim comes to no further harm.

“The key is really to have what we call a coordinated community response,” he said, “that is, all those agencies working together to take care of the family, whatever those needs are.”

If you don’t know how to get in touch with your local FAP officer, MilitaryOneSource has an installation directory that will provide phone numbers and addresses. You can also call your local post directory assistance, or visit or call Army Community Service or the on-post medical treatment facility.

- Contact your local chaplain’s office. You can find a local office in the directory on MilitaryOneSource.

- Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453.

- Contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 303-839-1852.

Editor’s Note: Col. Anthony Cox, program manager, Headquarters Department of the Army Family Advocacy, contributed to this story.