Intimate betrayals: A look at abuse inside Fort Bragg homes
June 17, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Sergeant Michael Lloyd Williams deployed three times and fathered one child with Stephanie Thompson before shooting her multiple times and then turning the gun on himself. Reports of possible co-abuse surfaced as the Fort Bragg Soldier, assigned to the 122nd Aviation Support Battalion, was transported to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center last month. The 46 year-old sergeant and his 24 year-old girlfriend had a documented history of discord during their seven-year relationship. Police discovered her body in the couple’s Fayetteville apartment on May 12.
Gavin De Becker, labeled a leading expert on violent behavior by Oprah Winfrey, stated that many battered women are almost immune to the threat of death. He noted how one resident of a domestic violence shelter returned to her partner, only to call the shelter and ask for re-entry. The victim stated she was not in imminent danger but later revealed, almost as an afterthought, that she was locked in a room with her husband outside the door " holding a gun. For her, the locked door suggested safety.
De Becker, who works closely with the Domestic Violence Council, said that a woman is a victim the first time she’s assaulted by an intimate partner … the second time she is a volunteer. This controversial statement underlies a fact that social workers know all too well " many victims choose to stay in an abusive relationship (or repeat the cycle elsewhere). For those who break away, local services are prepared to intercede on their behalf.
CARE Domestic Violence Shelter in Fayetteville acts as a safe house for women and children in immediate danger, including those who fear for their lives or are injured. The shelter also features a 24-hour crisis line (323-4187) and intervention classes for abusers.
It’s an intermediate intervention " temporary, but sometimes lifesaving. According to one employee at the shelter, “We’re working to try to get them something a little more permanent " Family members or other support system here or (in) other states … that independence in obtaining their own housing.
“When you’re in crisis and you have no money, nowhere to go, there needs to be a resource that accepts you in as you are and gives you time to help process what you need to do,” said that same employee, who asked to remain anonymous.
CARE provides that confidential assistance for victims, protecting their privacy while working to ensure residents get the help they need. CARE also helps male victims of domestic violence, by assisting with hotels or other emergency shelter. In addition to housing women and children, CARE offers individual counseling and support groups for victims.
Army Emergency Relief, an emergency financial assistance organization, can also approve the Threat to Life Grant. According to Robin Spann, victim advocate coordinator for the Fort Bragg Family Advocacy Program, the victim needs a protective order from the court system (or must have filed criminal charges) in order to qualify for the grant. In this case, the Red Cross verifies the victim(s) can safely relocate without the offender knowing the location.
“Under this process, if safety is questionable, the advocates work with AER and command to ensure the victim can leave as discreetly and safely as possible,” Spann said.
In the absence of a threat to life, the victim may still request relocation. Under these circumstances, Spann’s staff will seek a loan through AER and then seek approval from the Soldier’s chain of command. If the command approves a loan, then the Soldier/offender must repay it. If a loan is denied by the command, the next step is to seek a relocation grant.
FAP also educates military leaders on the importance of reporting mandates, available services and the impact of domestic violence on mission readiness, said Spann. The Army should enforce a zero tolerance policy when it comes to domestic abuse, meaning that every report of abuse is investigated.
“If (unit leaders) have a Soldier who has reportedly become physical with his/her partner, (leaders) should not accept any excuse,” said Spann. In each case, it is crucial that chain of command pursue two immediate actions " issue a 72-hour military protective order/no contact order and involve Womack Army Medical Center social workers by contacting 907-7869. These Fort Bragg social workers are specifically trained to handle accusations/instances of abuse and will intervene to develop a safety/treatment plan.
“Even the most trivial sounding case might become life threatening very quickly without intervention,” Spann cautioned.
(Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-month series on domestic abuse.)