FORT BRAGG, N.C. - No one starts a relationship thinking they will become a victim of domestic violence, but it happens with alarming frequency.

The FBI reports domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States. That's more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Domestic violence does not discriminate against gender, race, age or socio-economic status.

Victims of domestic violence need information about how to stay safe, how to keep their children free from violence and available options and resources. Each of us has a role to play in our community to provide support and assistance to victims. She (or he) may need our help to restore a life free from fear in the one place where everyone should feel safe and secure - at home.

Although domestic violence usually occurs within the home, it carries over into the workplace in many ways. Studies have found that domestic violence victims experience impaired work performance and require more time off than employees who are not abused.

Victims of domestic violence experience a broad range of emotional consequences, including depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, all of which can adversely affect productivity. In addition, 75 percent of domestic violence victims face harassment from intimate partners while at work.

When considering the medical costs and diminished productivity levels incurred as a result of domestic violence, it is estimated the cost to employers is between $3 to 5 billion every year.

One in three Americans has witnessed domestic violence - a verbal or physical assault. "If we are to solve this national tragedy, we must start by choosing to see the abuse and get involved," said Stacey Hale, command training and outreach coordinator for the Fort Bragg Family Advocacy Program. "We must make it our business to offer assistance if a friend, co-worker, or relative is trapped in an abusive relationship and doesn't know how to get help."

The National Family Violence Prevention Fund has this advice for assisting victims of domestic violence:
Help a victim prepare a safety plan.
Ask direct questions, gently. Don't rush into providing solutions. Listen without judging.
Explain that physical violence and other forms of abuse in a relationship are never acceptable, at any time.
Explain that domestic violence is a crime and there is a way to seek protection through shelters and the justice system. Provide information about resources.
If the victim remains in the relationship, continue to be a friend while at the same time firmly communicating that no one deserves to be in an abusive situation.

Confidential information and assistance is available by calling the Fort Bragg Victim Advocate Hotline, 322-3418. Victim advocates are on call 24 hours per day, seven days a week. If you would like more information about domestic violence prevention, how to help a friend or Family member identify and escape an abusive relationship, the availability of community resources or have other related questions or concerns, Fort Bragg Family Advocacy can be reached at 396-5521.

Other sources of information regarding domestic violence include: the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at or 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); the Family Violence Prevention Fund at; and Military One Source at or 1-800-342-9647.

(Editor's note: Information obtained from the National Family Violence Prevention Fund and Partnership for Prevention,