By Candateshia Pafford, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsOctober 20, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas, Oct. 20, 2011 -- Like many others, Schantel Thomas did not see her boyfriend as abusive. She thought he acted out of love. Looking back now, she sees him for what he was -- abusive -- and wants to help others break the cycle of abuse.
"I did not realize that the characteristics he was portraying were the characteristics of someone who was an abusive person," said Thomas, a domestic abuse survivor.
Thomas was a voice for survivors and victims of domestic violence as she shared her experiences from an abusive relationship at the Domestic Violence Prevention Proclamation Signing Ceremony at III Corps Headquarters, Oct. 5.
One act of domestic violence is too many, and III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr. emphasized that message as he signed the proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Prevention month.
Campbell's endorsement of stopping the violence is yet another way Fort Hood is continuing efforts in preventing domestic violence by making sure there is a safe and secure outlet for those who need help.
"It's only through awareness, coaching, teaching and making sure that our Soldiers and families have the best that they deserve in care, compassion and medical advice, we'll get after it," Campbell said.
Campbell said that by signing the proclamation, he was not only symbolizing the importance of the message, but he was trying to live it in the way he conducts himself as a senior leader by giving support to families suffering from domestic violence.
David Ross, chief of police, Fort Hood Directorate of Emergency Services, said events like the proclamation signing raise awareness for victims of domestic violence and those who may see domestic violence occurring, encouraging more people to get involved.
Thomas said that a lot of people are not able to speak out about their abusive relationships because of fear, denial or they are simply unaware of the warning signs.
Thomas described her past relationship and said 15 years later, she was still fearful for her well-being and suffered from depression and anxiety.
"On the outside, you wouldn't be able to see that, but on the inside, I was screaming for help," Thomas said.
She said in the beginning, she didn't seek help because of shame, and she felt no one would believe her. Thomas said it took her 15 years to speak out about her domestic abuse, but by that time, she was already out of the abusive situation.
"So many people wait too late, and they may not get the opportunity to get out. I just want to be the voice for them," Thomas said.
Barbara Myers, Domestic Violence Prevention Month coordinator and trainer, Fort Hood Family Advocacy Program, said domestic violence can affect anyone.
There is no age range, economic status range, racial or gender preference, Myers said, adding that males are victims, just like females, but they are reluctant to speak out sometimes.
Military communities have many stressors that accumulate because of long absences away from Family members and the adjustment phase of reintegration.
Fort Hood is doing a good job of educating Soldiers and family members about the warning signs of domestic violence; however, one incident of domestic violence is too much, Myers said.
"There is always more that needs to be done and accomplished, so that there are no more cases of domestic violence," she said.
Myers said there are two methods of reporting domestic violence on Fort Hood: restricted and unrestricted.
Restricted reporting allows the victim to seek help or advice with a victim advocacy counselor and the police are not notified and no file is reported.
Unrestricted reporting allows the victim to report their abuser, and police and social services are notified and domestic charges filed against the abuser.
For the spouse and child hotline on Fort Hood, call 287-CARE (2273), and for 24/7 victim advocacy, call 702-4953.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline phone number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).