FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Army defines domestic violence as an offense that involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force or violence against a person, or a violation of a lawful order issued for the protection of a person.

That abuse can include a pattern of behavior resulting in emotional/psychological abuse, economic control, and/or interference with personal liberty.

Slapping, hitting, grabbing is abuse and so is keeping someone from leaving by holding them down or holding on to them. Punching a hole in the wall can be abuse if it threatens the partner, as can be repeatedly cutting a spouse down or calling him/her names.

Abuse can be against either a current or former spouse; a person with whom the abuser shares a child, or a current or former intimate partner with whom the abuser shares or has shared a common domicile.

Domestic violence is an offense under the United States Code, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and state law.

It takes many forms and can be at the hands of either a male or female of any race, ethnic background or socio-economic group. There are victims who are so used to abuse or control in their relationship that it takes a while for them to realize that things are not right. Some have actually been convinced that they are to blame for the abuse, or think that no one will believe them if they come forward. Many victims know they are being abused but have many reasons for wanting to stay in the relationship. Others believe there is no way out or have been threatened with harm or death if they try to leave.

Domestic violence is still a big problem in the United States and in the Army. It is hard to compare the two and say that one or the other has more abuse, but in general, when all things are equal, the Army has as much abuse or slightly less than the civilian community. A comparison of military and civilian communities is clouded by many things.

In the Army, the slightest hint of abuse or serious marital problems is going to be reported. In the Army, there are significantly more young people and more married couples than in the civilian community. At the same time however, most servicemembers do not have alcohol, drug, unemployment or mental health problems to the extent of the civilian population.

The military leads the way however, in providing safe ways for victims of domestic violence to get help. Many victims have been heard to complain that they did not get enough help from a servicemember's unit or commander. When you, or someone you know, needs help with an abuse situation, always find an expert. Unit personnel often are not experts on how best to help in a domestic violence situation.

The Department of Defense has a victim advocate program at every post. At Fort Bragg Army Community Service there are 12 victim advocates who staff a 24 hour victim's hotline (322-3418). These highly trained advocates, as well as personnel at the Department of Social Work at Womack Army Medical Center and the WAMC Emergency Room, are the ones to find for help with a situation. They also respond to victims of sexual assault 24-hours a day. Any victim who needs help can call them. Any victim who is concerned for their privacy can call them and not give their name and still receive the maximum help possible. Victims can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for private help, at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

The military offers other services to support victims of domestic violence. The Transitional Compensation Program was started in response to victims who were afraid that coming forward for help would leave them/their children destitute and homeless if their servicemember abuser was discharged from the service.

If a Family member reports abuse and as a result, the servicemember is discharged or incarcerated, that Family is eligible for three years of pay, medical, dental PX and commissary privileges to help put their life together.

Last year, 22 Families received the equivalent of 1.1 million dollars in transitional compensation on Fort Bragg.

International spouses who are not citizens of the United States are a group who may be especially vulnerable to abuse or neglect and fear that they will be deported if they try to find help for abuse.

The Army Community Service International Readiness Program (396-6120/8682) provides international spouses with a wide variety of information and supports to help them develop a support network, work towards English as a second language, their driver's license, citizenship and a host of other needs.

The Family Advocacy Program (396-5521) or Military One Source (1-800-464-8107) can guide individuals who feel they could benefit from marriage, couples or Family counseling. If there is active domestic abuse going on, couples/marriage counseling might actually make things worse. Call one of these agencies or WAMC Social Work (907-7869) for expert advice on where to find the right help for you or someone you know.

All of us should find ways to become involved when we find out someone may be a victim of domestic violence. We can become involved by calling out our friends or peers when we hear them talking badly about their spouses or belittling another sex.

Page last updated Fri October 21st, 2011 at 00:00