By Eve Meinhardt, ParaglideJanuary 21, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Domestic violence is an issue that receives a lot of attention in the military community. It is an issue taken seriously at Fort Bragg where Soldiers face the extra stress that separations and reunions place on them and their Families during deployment rotations.
One of the misconceptions about domestic violence is that when a victim decides not to pursue a claim, they are lying and can't be believed if they should file a future claim.
There are a number of reasons why a victim may not pursue a claim without the claim being dismissed as false. They may feel that they are economically dependent on the abuser, fear for their lives or just love their abuser and blame themselves for the abuser's actions.
"Most research shows that it takes a victim an average of seven times before getting out of an abusive situation," said Tom Hill, Army Community Service, Family Advocacy Program manager. "While 70 percent of the abusers are male, there are males victimized by abusive females. The numbers may be higher because some male victims may never report being abused."
If a victim does not pursue a claim and files a new one at a later date, their second, third or even tenth claim will be taken as seriously and given the same amount of attention as the initial claim.
Anyone seeking assistance whether reporting a claim or seeking the help of a counselor, has the option of remaining anonymous. If they don't want assistance from the resources available on Fort Bragg, FAP can provide them with a list of other agencies that offer assistance.
Hill also suggested that Families needing counseling or advice visit one of the Fort Bragg chaplains, who don't have to disclose information discussed and receive extensive training in mediation and marital counseling.
"People should not risk going to just anyone for assistance or counseling. The people they go to may not be trained to help," said Hill.
Carolyn Kemokai is one of the FAP victim advocates. They perform the tasks their titles imply, they advocate for victim's rights and work with them to develop a plan for their safety and even work with Army Emergency Relief to help meet financial needs if necessary.
"Being an advocate is very gratifying," said Kemokai. "It's good to know that there is a system there to help people. My job is to help make sure the system is working."
FAP even has a program in place to make sure victims who are financially dependent on an abusive spouse are provided for when they come forward to get out of the relationship. This can include receiving monthly payments, continuing medical benefits, maintaining post exchange and commissary privileges and relocation assistance.
As part of the Army Family Covenant, the FAP team provides Soldiers, their Families and leadership with a wide-range of classes, resources and training to prevent domestic violence, as well as 24-hour access to a victim advocate for anyone who expresses concern for their safety. The training helps teach others what to look for in cases where the victim may be too afraid to come forward.
"There is a big prevention arm at Fort Bragg," said Hill. "We have 12 victim advocates here. At Womack (Army Medical Center) the ER staff have to report any evidence of abuse they see and Womack also has a full-time staff to train hospital staff about the need to report and what signs to look for."
Army leadership also receives training on how to recognize signs of domestic violence and how to report it.
"Commanders and first sergeants are trained if they get wind of anyone who might be in an abusive situation, whether they are the victim or the partner, they've got to separate the couple for at least 72 hours to determine if they are safe of not - no matter how minor it may seem. Even the most minor incident could turn fatal. The stakes are too high and we can't take that chance," said Hill.
Leaders who suspect an abusive relationship are mandated to report it.
Soldiers also receive annual domestic violence awareness training. This training not only teaches them how to recognize signs of domestic violence but it also teaches about the outreach programs available to Soldiers and Families experiencing problems.
Anyone involved in an abusive relationship or who suspects a friend, neighbor or co-worker is a victim of domestic violence needing help, can call the victim hotline at 322-3418. A victim advocate is available 24 hours a day.