FORT BRAGG, N.C. - More than 100 community members gathered at Womack Army Medical Center's Weaver Auditorium Oct. 26, in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and as a way to remember victims of domestic violence.

Dr. Sharon Cooper, who works in the hospital's Pediatrics Clinic conducted a session that explained what others can do if they or someone close to them is a victim of domestic violence.
The class also included information about how domestic violence affects everyone and on what has become an increasing trend - teen domestic violence.

Cooper explained that when she's not working at Womack, she spends a lot of her time working with the court system, testifying in domestic violence cases, including spousal homicide, and girlfriend and child homicide.

She said it was important to point out that child abuse is also a form of domestic violence adding that neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse have very close links to domestic violence. Because of this, Cooper referred to domestic violence as incident-partner violence.

"It's very important for health care providers to recognize that this is not a social problem, but that this is a public health problem," Cooper said. "And it's especially important when we think about our teenagers and that incident-partner violence involving teens is dramatically rising."
She said it's important to recognize that in cyberspace, through the Internet, children are not only being cyber-bullied, but also they're victims of different forms of domestic violence.

She pointed out that as health care providers, employees at WAMC need to know to ask the questions and know how to provide good guidance to parents and Families.

She explained that it is common for health care providers to initially look for physical bruises when they're looking to substantiate case of domestic violence, but in some cases there may not be obvious bruises as some attackers have found ways to camouflaging their abuse.

"I had a case where a young woman told me that her boyfriend would intentionally hit her with boxing gloves so that he wouldn't leave obvious bruises, but he was still hitting her - punching her in the stomach and in the face and it hurt just as much, but he know how to have a cushioned assault so that there wouldn't be any bruises present as a means to try to get the point across," Cooper said.

She said that by giving the class and informing those in attendance about the recent increase in teen domestic violence, she hopes to alert those who work with children what to look for and she wanted to alert parents about the unhealthy type of relationship, where someone is texting their daughter 50 times a day and let them know what it really means.

"Most parents don't understand it, nor do they recognize it, yet they're the ones who pay the bill and they can see right away how often that's happening," she said.

Cooper said as health care providers, they can tell parents about the risks for meningitis or other health problems but domestic violence is a problem of equal importance.

In 2008, 2nd Lt. Holly Wimunc, a nurse at WAMC, was allegedly killed by her estranged husband, Marine Cpl. John Wimunc in Fayetteville. Wimunc's partially decomposed and badly burned body was found July 13, 2008 near Camp Lejeune, where her husband and another Marine, Lance Cpl. Kyle Alden, were both charged with arson and first-degree murder.

"It's really an honor to be here at Womack and to be at Fort Bragg and (it's important) for us not to forget Lieutenant Wimunc," Cooper said, following the event.