By Col. Deborah B. GraysOctober 21, 2010
Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem
Domestic violence - it's an ugly, painful issue that, unfortunately, has touched most of us.
According to most statistics, one in four women will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime. In addition, countless men and women have witnessed domestic violence, either in our own Families while growing up or among friends, neighbors or co-workers.
While domestic violence is often considered a private matter, particularly by victims and abusers, the truth is it's a very public problem. Domestic violence is abuse that occurs within Families or between persons in a close relationship, including spouses, a boyfriend and girlfriend, a parent and child, same-sex couples and an adult child and elderly parent.
Abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual or involve property (such as destroying someone's belongings or forcing an adult to become economically dependent for his or her basic needs). The violence can happen all the time or once in a while.
Often, domestic violence victims suffer in silence. There are many reasons victims don't report the abuse - the most common is fear of further violence or death.
Yet while victims of abuse may fear reporting the crime would result in an escalated level of violence, historically, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), domestic violence escalates whether or not it is reported.
Almost one third of female homicide victims reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner - spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, according to the NCADV.
Children who witness domestic violence at home are more likely to be abused and/or neglected.
Even a child who is not physically harmed may have emotional and behavior problems.
The NCADV reports that not only do 30 to 60 percent of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household, but also that boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
Military communities are not immune to domestic violence.
Soldiers today face constant deployments, posttraumatic stress disorder, frequent household moves and more.
These issues can cause servicemembers levels of stress some may not be capable of managing in nonviolent means. Another reason victims don't report domestic violence is that abusers often use isolation to maintain control over their victims. When victims feel isolated, opportunities to seek escape from an abusive relationship may seem even more limited.
This isolation can be easily fostered in the armed forces, where military Families are frequently moved to locations where victims have no Family or friends and where resources for assistance may not be as easily found.
Also, many victims of domestic abuse, especially in the military, refuse to report violence or cooperate in investigations into allegations of violence for fear of damaging their spouse's career.
For these reasons and more, the DoD has made domestic violence prevention an item of specific concern.
As a military commander, I implore you to act on the three Rs of domestic violence awareness: recognize, respond and refer. Recognize the warning signs of domestic violence.
If you're unsure what these signs are, contact the U.S. Army Garrison's Family Advocacy Program (FAP) staff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at 404-275-4179 for more information.
Respond by talking, privately, with the person you suspect of being a victim.
Listen to the person and express your concern. Finally, refer the victim for help, either to the FAP staff or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
If you see domestic violence taking place, call 911 immediately.
If you are a victim of abuse, know someone who is being abused, are an abuser or would like more information on domestic abuse, call the FAP staff.
The National Center for Domestic and Sexual Violence also provides links to DoD and specific military service domestic violence prevention programs at www.ncdsv.org/ncd_contacts.html.
If you have been a victim or witness to domestic violence and feel affected by the crime, you should also seek help. Domestic violence stands alone in the degree of pure emotional pain it causes, and healing is a long-term process.
Resources are available, both in the military and civilian communities, to help victims move forward.
I invite everyone in the military community to join the Army Community Service FAP staff Wedneday from 11 until 11:30 a.m. at Fort McPherson's Hedekin Field for a balloon release event held in conjunction with this month's National Domestic Violence Awareness Month observation.
Take a stand against domestic violence.