WASHINGTON — Several years ago, I interviewed a noncommissioned officer for the base paper where I was stationed. He very bravely had agreed to talk about his experiences with domestic abuse in hopes of raising awareness of the problem.
He told me how his temper would flare up at his wife and how he would get physically aggressive with her. His anger would rage out of control, he told me, and it was difficult to suppress.
But rather than continue down a destructive path, this servicemember opted to get help. He sought assistance through the base family advocacy program and, through counseling, found the help he needed to deal with his anger and the underlying causes for his abuse. He accepted responsibility, found help early on and continued on to have a successful career and a healthy marriage.
I thought that took a lot of guts. He conveyed a strong message that it’s never too late to seek help, whether you’re the perpetrator or the victim.
The Defense Department is observing Domestic Violence Awareness Month this month by stepping up efforts to bring awareness to this pervasive issue and the resources available to prevent it.
Domestic abuse, which encompasses physical and emotional abuse, has a devastating impact, robbing people of their self-esteem and, in the worst cases, their lives.
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.
Within the military, despite a decade of war and the associated stressors, there has been 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.
That speaks to the effectiveness of the military’s prevention and education efforts. Still, there are thousands of cases and even one case is too many. We need to wipe out this silent destroyer of lives and families.
The first step, officials advise, is to seek help as soon as possible, whether it’s reaching out to a victim advocate, health care provider, military family life consultant or chaplain. 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.
People also 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.
People who suspect someone they know is being abused should contact military law enforcement, the family advocacy program or the servicemember’s command.
It takes an enormous amount of courage to seek help, whether you’re the perpetrator or the victim, but it’s well worth it in the long run. It could save your life or the life of someone you love.
Above all, don’t suffer in silence. Whether you’re trying to catch a problem early on or the abuse is deeply rooted in your relationship, it’s never too late to get help.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)