USA — Family Matters Blog: Domestic Abuse: Don’t Suffer in Silence

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

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

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)

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