USA — Military Launches Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign

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)

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