Domestic and Child Abuse in the Military Family: Fighting the Battle in Your Own Backyard

Domestic and Child Abuse in the Military Family: Fighting the Battle in Your Own Backyard
Domestic abuse comes in many forms and can have lasting effects on its’ victims. For those serving in the military, dealing with abuse in the home can also interfere with their daily performance and clash with core military values. Too many families suffer in silence, but there are organizations and programs in place that can help. Support Service members and families in your community by spreading awareness about domestic abuse and where victims can turn to for help.

Is it Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse includes domestic violence, which is violence that happens between domestic partners or family members, but also child abuse, which is the mistreatment or neglect of a child that causes harm or injury. Domestic abuse can be physical, but it can also be psychological (isolation from loved ones, name-calling, blaming, etc.) or economic (e.g., limiting your access to money, not allowing you to work). You may be in an abusive relationship if:
  • Your partner tells you where you can go, what to do and who you can see.
  • He/she calls you nasty names, intimidates you and blames you for the abuse.
  • He/she has threatened with weapons.
  • He/she has struck, kicked or tried to choke you.
  • Your partner has threatened to harm your children or take them away from you.
  • Your life has been threatened or the abuser has threatened to commit suicide.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and can include many more factors. Remember, domestic abuse victims can be of any race, gender, religion or military rank, or be of any level of education or income.

Getting Help

Military families experiencing domestic or child abuse can contact the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) on the installation. FAP offers a wide range of services under their Victim Advocacy Services Program that aid with domestic abuse intervention, support through the legal and investigative procedures of reporting, treatment for abusers, and prevention in the form of counseling and training. There are 24/7 FAP Domestic Abuse Victim Advocacy Hotlines in place on all installations. To find one for yours, visit the DoD-Wide DAVA Directory.

Reporting Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse in all of its forms often goes unreported. Since reporting domestic abuse can hurt a Service member’s career, it can be even more of an anxiety-inducing situation for victims to come forward. For this reason, there are unrestricted and restricted reporting options.
  • If restricted reporting is appropriate, victims are able to receive support and treatment from the installation’s Family Advocacy Program (FAP), victim advocates and health care professionals, but do not have to launch a formal investigation or notify commanding officers.
  • Unrestricted reporting will warrant an official investigation and involve FAP, law enforcement and the Service member’s command.

Reporting Child Abuse

Reporting child abuse is mandatory for everyone in the military.
  • Contact military law enforcement or 911 immediately if child abuse is witnessed directly,
  • If child neglect or abuse is suspected, you can call your installation’s FAP or Child Protective Services to open an investigation.
  • You can also contact your state’s child abuse hotline or Childhelp.

Prepare Your Safety Plan

Deciding to leave an abusive relationship takes courage and strength, but it also takes planning. Creating a safety plan is essential and will help you and your children get out of harm’s way quickly, efficiently and - most importantly - safely. Your safety plan should include details on:
  • Emergency shelters.
  • Child care.
  • Where to find financial assistance, if needed.
  • Checklists on what to take with you when leaving.
  • Contact numbers of family members and friends aware of your situation.
There is no universal plan that will work for everyone. Note what applies to you specifically and make sure your plan suits your situation. Pack a bag that contains all essential items, so you can grab it quickly if needed. This can include extra money, identification records and legal papers, important contact information for family and friends and extra supplies, such as a change of clothes and medications for you and your children. If you know someone dealing with domestic or child abuse. encourage them to reach out to their installation's FAP or call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. For more information on Military Life products available to purchase for your community, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Domestic and Child Abuse in the Military