WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2010 — The Defense Department is observing National Domestic Violence Awareness Month by reminding the military community about resources and programs to help in preventing or stopping domestic violence.
President Barack Obama issued a National Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation Oct. 1, emphasizing the U.S. government’s commitment to reducing its prevalence, supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice.
“Ending domestic violence requires a collaborative effort involving every part of society,” he wrote. “This month – and throughout the year – let each of us resolve to be vigilant in recognizing and combating domestic violence in our communities, and let us build a culture of safety and support for all those affected.”
Domestic violence is a national problem that cuts across socioeconomic, age, gender, ethnic, racial and cultural lines. National statistics reveal that it affects more than 4 million people a year, with almost 17,000 of them murdered by an intimate partner and an estimated 2,000 children dying at the hands of a caregiver.
The FBI reports that people are more likely to be assaulted in their own homes by someone they know and trust than on the street by a stranger. Typically, the injuries are more devastating.
But domestic violence isn’t always physical, officials emphasized. It can be more subtle: emotional, psychological or economic. Regardless of its form, it hurts individuals, ruins families and weakens communities.
The military faces the same challenges as society at large, particularly in light of the high operational tempo and the strain it puts on servicemembers as well as their families. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates acknowledged these stresses during a lecture last week at Duke University.
“As a result of the multiple deployments and hardships associated with Afghanistan and Iraq, large swaths of the military – especially our ground combat forces and their families – are under extraordinary stress,” Gates said during the Sept. 29 address.
This comes with consequences, the secretary said, including “more anxiety and disruption inflicted on children, increased domestic strife and a corresponding rising divorce rate — which in the case of Army enlisted has nearly doubled since the wars began — and, most tragically, a growing number of suicides.”
The Defense Department has added muscle to its programs addressing all these issues, including domestic violence. This month, it’s stepping up its outreach to remind the military community about programs in place to prevent domestic violence and to ensure people know what where to turn if they experience or witness it.
Installation family support centers offer a wide variety of programs and classes for military members and their families, and Military OneSource and Military Homefront provide online access to information and resources, officials noted.
In addition, the family advocacy program is responsible for addressing violence in military families through prevention, early identification, intervention, victim support and treatment for abusers. The program’s staff members work with commanders, military law enforcement personnel, medical staff and family center staffers and chaplains, as well as civilian agencies, to provide a coordinated response to domestic abuse.
To protect those who might otherwise not file a report, the family advocacy program allows people to submit a “restricted report,” officials explained, to report domestic abuse by a servicemember without initiating a law enforcement or command notification or investigation.
Military installations are highlighting these and other programs with their own National Domestic Violence Awareness Month campaigns.
Fort Meade, Md., for example, held a candlelight vigil Oct. 1 to kick off a variety of awareness-building events this month. These include seminars on subjects ranging from couples communication to healthy versus unhealthy relationships and spousal rights.
At Scott Air Force Base, Ill., the 375th Medical Group’s family advocacy office launched voluntary anger management workshops to teach attendees to understand their anger issues and deal with them in nondestructive ways.
Meanwhile, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., is spotlighting its successful Power Workshop. The program gives victims of domestic violence an opportunity to share how it has impacted their homes, and teaches participants how to defuse potentially violent domestic situations, and what to do if they escalate.
At Joint Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Rear Adm. Dixon Smith, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, launched his command’s domestic violence awareness campaign by urging vigilance.
“I want to thank you for all that you do in trying to eradicate domestic violence,” Smith said at the Sept. 30 event. “We’re not perfect yet, but we’re definitely making progress. This is a very important issue, and we need to stay ferocious on our attack to eliminate domestic violence.”
Officials call information the most important tool in stopping domestic violence before it begin, and emphasize that everyone can play a part in preventing or ending it. They recommend these steps:
— Teach young people that violence is not acceptable;
— Promote general domestic violence awareness by talking to your friends and family about this issue;
— Offer support and understanding – not judgment – to a friend or family member that you may be concerned about;
— Support your friends and family by informing them of resources that can help them if they are experiencing relationship problems;
— Become active in domestic violence prevention activities on your installation or in your local community; and
— Report to law enforcement or your local family advocacy program is you suspect abuse.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)