VICENZA, Italy -- Whether or not you've experienced domestic abuse personally, you probably know that it can have devastating consequences. Victims carry the emotional scars of abuse long after they're out of harm's way.

And abusers, if not stopped, can escalate the violence until they and their victims lose everything - family, career, self-respect and even freedom.

Here in U.S. Army Garrison Italy, the domestic abuse victim advocate (DAVA) is offered through the ACS Family Advocacy Program as an effort to uphold the commitment to provide Soldiers and family members with a strong and supportive environment. Domestic abuse undermines the Army's promise for a quality of life commensurate with the level of service and sacrifice.

What is a DAVA? A domestic abuse victim advocate is a trained professional that offers non-clinical advocacy services and support to Soldiers and family members experiencing domestic violence.

A DAVA is on call 24/7 to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, non-judgmental support, assistance in securing medical treatment for injuries, information on legal rights and proceedings, and referrals to safe shelter, military and civilian resources. The on-call DAVA will empower victims to make informed and independent decisions to support their recovery process.

How does a DAVA differ from a SHARP victim advocate? Basically, the difference is that if sexual assault occurs within a marriage or an intimate partnership established by living together, regardless of same or opposite sex, the DAVA can respond. SHARP provides comprehensive advocacy services to individuals exhibiting a wide variety of issues related to being a victim or survivor of sexual harassment or sexual assault, outside of the marital or co-habitant, intimate partner relationship.

The DAVA is concerned with the violence, whether it is sexual, physical or emotional, within the relationship that has been established with a current spouse; a person with whom the abuser shares a child in common; or a current or former intimate partner with whom the abuser shares a residence.

The DAVA can support individuals in gaining information or offering a Restricted Report to allow the victim to receive advocacy services without triggering an official law enforcement investigation or command involvement.

When there has already been intervention by law enforcement or the command, the DAVA can also provide the same services of support and connection to medical, legal, and community or military resources. These services are available to Soldiers, family member spouses and adult intimate partners.

The DAVA can also connect the victim with the Transitional Compensation Program. This is a Congressionally authorized program that authorizes temporary payments for families in which the active-duty Soldier has been court-martialed or is being administratively separated for a family member abuse offense.

More information can be gained by visiting your Army Community Service center, Building 108 on Caserma Ederle, or by calling the ACS FAP Program Manager at 0444-71-7489, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.