Survivors of Military Domestic Violence Asked to Share Their Stories with Congress

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A simulation coordinator applies a simulated bruise to a Black Eye Campaign volunteer.
A 48th Medical Group simulation coordinator applies a simulated bruise to a Black Eye Campaign volunteer at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Oct. 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Eli Chevalier)

The Government Accountability Office is seeking input from survivors of domestic violence in military relationships, including service members, spouses or partners who experienced abuse any time in the past six years.

The information is for a report to Congress on the military services' efforts to prevent and respond to domestic violence in the ranks.

The investigation was ordered last year by members of the House Armed Services Committee after several military spouses testified that their appeals to military commands following incidents of abuse went ignored.

Related: Tamara Campbell Won't Stop Advocating for Survivors of Domestic Violence

In a report released last February, the Department of Defense Inspector General found that responses from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to domestic abuse cases often were inconsistent, even as all are expected to follow a DoD instruction on domestic violence.

The IG found that military police frequently erred when processing crime scenes and failed to inform victims of available support services.

During congressional testimony last year, three military wives who testified on their experiences reporting abuse said that they were not informed of support programs available to them.

They added that, after reporting abuse to units, commands often sided with the perpetrator, shielding them from prosecution and allowing them to retire or leave the service without an investigation or prosecution.

For their report, GAO analysts want to talk to survivors who have personally experienced abuse, including neglect and physical, emotional or sexual violence, since September 2014. The survivors must have been either active duty, married to a service member or the intimate partner of one.

Survivors are not required to have reported the abuse, and the office will not ask survivors to detail their experiences. Instead, GAO staff wants to hear perspectives on any barriers encountered or access to resources and services following the abuse or after reporting it.

Domestic violence became a distinct offense punishable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 2018. Previously, spouse or partner abuse in the U.S. military was prosecuted under various sections of the UCMJ.

A 2017 survey by the advocacy group Blue Star Families found that roughly 15 percent of military family members reported not feeling physically safe in their relationships.

Under the requirements of the report, GAO investigators cannot discuss open law enforcement cases or legal investigations. Neither will they speak to romantic partners who do not meet the criteria of an "intimate" partner -- either sharing a home or having a child in common with the alleged abuser.

For more information or to schedule confidential conversation, the GAO can be reached by phone at 833-919-0680, or email at Survivor2020@gao.gov. Those who contact the GAO can select to have either a male or female staff member conduct the interview.

The final report is expected to be published by the end of the year, according to the GAO.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at patricia.kime@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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