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Domestic Violence Resources for Military Families
Domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime regardless of their military service, race, ethnicity, education level, religion, gender or age. Although experiencing stress is common for Service members and their families, it should never be used as an excuse to explain or justify domestic violence under any circumstances. Moreover, anger, alcohol, or drugs are never excuses for abuse. That is why members of every military family — including Service members, spouses, parents, siblings or other caregivers — need to be aware of the valuable resources available for anyone experiencing domestic violence.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a crime, and it should never be a part of a loving relationship. It is not a normal or accepted by-product of military life. For their own safety, everyone in the military family should know how to identify domestic violence in all of its forms.
Domestic violence includes the following acts:1
- Physical violence—hitting, pushing, grabbing, squeezing, yanking, biting, choking, shaking or slapping
- Sexual violence—attempted or actual sexual contact without consent
- Threats of physical or sexual abuse—words, looks or gestures to control or frighten
- Psychological or emotional abuse—humiliating, insulting, isolating, ignoring or financially controlling
- Stalking—following, harassing or electronic tracking that makes you feel afraid
If any of the above situations occur, it is critical that the affected family members and caregivers take one of the actions described below to protect themselves and find the appropriate care for the victim; the psychological issues that lead to domestic violence behaviors can be treated by behavioral health professionals. Other helpful resources for families include individual or couples counseling, legal advice and housing assistance, which are available both on and off of military installations. Remember, reaching out is a necessary first step.
What Can I Do to Protect My Family and Seek Treatment for My Warrior?
If you or someone you know needs help with a domestic violence issue, free tools for accessing immediate assistance are available 24/7 by contacting:
- 911 if you feel that you or a loved one is in immediate danger
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 to locate a victim advocate in your area
- The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) Outreach Center through Real Warriors Live Chat or by calling 1-866-966-1020 to talk to a trained health resource consultant
If your children ever appear to be in danger, contact the Department of Defense (DoD) Child Abuse Safety and Violation Hotline at 800-336-4592 to report violence.
You can use the above tools as a first step in finding resources to help protect your family and assist the aggressor’s recovery. Treatments such as individual counseling, couples counseling or anger management therapy may be recommended for servicemembers, family members or caregivers.1
How Do I Know If I’m at Risk for Domestic Violence?
You can continuously evaluate your partner’s behavior for indicators that may predict the likelihood of domestic violence in your relationship. Typical risk factors include:2
- History of past battering
- Threats of violence
- Breaking objects or punching walls
- Unreasonable jealousy
- Controlling behavior
- Quick involvement in the relationship
- Blaming others for problems
- Cruelty to children and animals
- Abrupt mood changes
- Alcohol or drug abuse
What Can My Family do?
Have the strength to say “No” to domestic violence. Servicemembers and military families may experience common stress reactions before, during or after reintegration. However, this reality does not excuse, explain or justify violence towards loved ones. The chain of command is committed to helping military families address domestic violence, whether servicemembers are the victims or the aggressors.
The DoD Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign references the following steps in promoting education and awareness about domestic violence,1 which can be a helpful resource for military families in addressing domestic violence.
- Teach young people that violence is not acceptable;
- Promote general domestic violence awareness by talking to your friends and family about this issue;
- Offer support and understanding – not judgment – to a friend or family member that you may be concerned about;
- Support your friends and family by informing them of resources that can help them if they are experiencing relationship problems;
- Become active in domestic violence prevention activities on your installation or in your local community; and
- Report to law enforcement or your local family advocacy program is you suspect abuse.
When family members have the strength to come forward and seek assistance, a broad network of resources ranging from counseling to legal help to housing assistance is readily available. Use the tools listed in this article to take the first step.
- Domestic Abuse and Where to Find Help
- National Center on Domestic Violence Military Contact Page
- Information on how PTSD affects relationships
- For help in international locations, call the Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center toll-free at 1-866-USWOMEN
- Take Back the Night
- The National Network to End Domestic Violence
- DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response website
- Understanding Intimate Partner Violence [PDF 600KB]
- Violence Against Women
1"Intimate Partner Violence," National Center for PTSD. Last accessed Feb. 25, 2014.
2"Intimate Partner Violence: Risk and Protective Factors," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last accessed Feb. 25, 2014.