FORT BRAGG, N.C. - While military installations are their own enclaves, some of the problems that plague civilian society don't discriminate. One of those problems is domestic abuse, which cuts across all socioeconomic, age, gender, racial and ethnic backgrounds.
As defined by the Department of Defense, domestic violence is any offense that involves the use, attempted use or threatened use of force or violence against a person. It can involve someone of the opposite sex who is a current or former spouse; someone with whom the abuser shares a child; or a former or intimate partner with whom the abuser shares or has shared a domicile.
Under Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, anyone can be found guilty of assault if he or she attempts to do bodily harm to another person, whether or not the attempt is executed.
Violence can be perpetrated as manslaughter, battery, sodomy or rape. It can also take the form of verbal, emotional or economic abuse.
While 92 percent of physical abusers are men, women also commit domestic violence. In any scenario, domestic violence has negative effects. In children, the effects can result in children being more likely to use drugs, use violence in school, attempt suicide or become an abuser in later relationships.
Adults may develop sleeping problems, anger, low self-esteem, poor relationships with children and other loved ones and death if the victim does not leave the relationship.
Regardless of the perpetrator, when domestic violence occurs on Fort Bragg or in servicemember-connected Families, Fort Bragg has a resources and programs in place that mitigate and address the problem.
One such program is the Family Advocacy Program, designated to investigate reported incidents of child or spouse abuse cases.
According to Robin Spann, victim advocacy coordinator, FAP, there are 10 victim advocates assigned to persons identified as victims of domestic abuse.
Those victims get help by calling the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week Victim Advocate Hotline at 322-3418 or through domestic violence protective orders, police blotters or the Department of Social Work, Spann said. Typically, there are more than 100 referrals for domestic violence each month.
When a referral is made, the protocol is for a victim advocate to help provide support, information, education and referrals.
Because some of the indicators of domestic abuse include financial strain, pending divorce, child custody battles, alcohol abuse, threat of job loss or access to weapons, those referrals may involve classes such as anger or stress management, parenting or co-parenting, Army Emergency Relief and financial readiness.
Once an offender is identified, military leaders have Master Policy 80 which requires commanders to separate the offender and the victim for a minimum of 72 hours, Spann said.
A referral is also made to DSW for assessment. All services there are provided by licensed clinical social workers who offer individual, group and Family psychotherapy, said Shannon Lynch, a WAMC spokesperson.
Referrals can also be made to an agency such as the Cumberland County Department of Social Services.
While both DSW and FAP work to eliminate domestic abuse, DSW deals primarily with both the victim and the abuser; FAP deals with victims, Spann explained.
"Our hopes are to put things in place to alleviate whatever stressors caused folks to get to the point of a domestic violence incident, and to hopefully alleviate things from ever happening like that again . . . to give tools to adapt to the stressors of the military lifestyle," said Spann.
"It is important for people to seek help to end violence in their home and maintain positive, non-violent relationships," Lynch said.
In 2010, the Department of Defense launched a domestic awareness campaign with then Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledging the strain that multiple deployments has placed on servicemembers and their Families.
It is a strain that Fort Bragg officials have also acknowledged.
"Relationships take work and when you are separated, sometimes that hinders a relationship that should be growing," Spann said.
Unfortunately, the number of unhealthy relationships appear to be growing. From 2006 to 2011, reports show that domestic violence rose 33 percent; violent crime rose 64 percent and child abuse rose 43 percent. Such increasing numbers have an impact on the availability of Soldiers. According to the Lautenberg Amendment of 1996, it is a felony for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to ship, transport, possess or receive firearms or ammunitions, effectively ending a servicemember's career.
But steps and actions can be taken to avoid domestic abuse before either a career or a life is lost.
Offenders, for instance, should find ways to appropriately express anger; attack the issue, not the person; avoid challenging another person's anger; and heal emotional wounds from the past.
More strategies can be obtained by visiting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.ndvh.org or by calling 1-800-799-7833.
On Fort Bragg, call the Victim Advocate Hotline at 322-3418, or seek help from a counselor, friend or a chaplain.
(Editor's note: Some information for this article was obtained from thehotline.org and from about.com.)