October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Help a friend or yourself by learning what special resources are available to military families. Military OneSource can help.
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Whether or not you recognize the signs, it's likely that someone you know is a victim of domestic violence. The person may be someone you serve with, someone from your community, or a family member or friend. Below are resources and information on domestic violence.
Understanding domestic violence Many of us think of domestic violence as violence that involves only physical harm -- slapping, kicking, pushing, throwing things, sexual assault, or threatening with a weapon. This is one form of domestic violence. Domestic violence can also involve a pattern of emotional and verbal abuse. Underlying domestic violence is one person's need to feel powerful and in control of another person's behavior and actions. They may hurt their victims and maintain control over them by using insults, put-downs, public humiliation, name-calling, verbal threats, or social and economic isolation. They may be extremely jealous and keep the victim from seeing friends or relatives. They may use threats of violence, suicide, or of taking away the children. All of these tactics are meant to silence victims so that they are afraid to seek help or call the police. As the National Crime Prevention Council says, "Silence is the batterer's best friend. We have to end the silence and change our attitudes toward domestic crime." Facts about domestic violence Domestic violence is hard to talk about, and many victims of domestic violence hide the fact that they are being abused, even from close relatives and friends. For this reason, there are many misconceptions about domestic violence. Here are some facts:
Domestic violence is a widespread problem. Millions of women, children, and men are abused every year.
Domestic violence affects families of all backgrounds, races, religions, education levels, and income groups. It exists equally in every socioeconomic group, among officers as well as enlisted personnel, regardless of race or culture. Domestic abuse may involve couples who are married or unmarried, living together or apart.
Both men and women may be victims of domestic violence, although women are the most frequent victims. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that more than 90 percent of all victims of domestic violence are women. Almost 4 million American women are physically abused by their spouses every year. (Because women make up the majority of domestic violence victims, we will use the word she to refer to victims. Also for the purposes of this article, the word "spouse" refers to both spouses and boyfriends or girlfriends.)
Domestic violence isn't always physical. Women who are not physically injured but who suffer other forms of domestic violence including insults, verbal threats, and social or economic isolation may not recognize that they are victims of domestic violence.
All children in a violent home are at risk of being abused themselves. Violence at home can have serious long-term effects on children and affect their emotional development and self-esteem. Children who grow up seeing domestic violence face a greater risk of becoming victims or abusers themselves when they grow up.
It can be very difficult for a victim of domestic violence to leave the relationship. The victim may be socially isolated, hope her spouse will change, or feel ashamed or responsible for the violence she suffers, as if she provoked it or deserves it. She may fear for her life or her children's safety. She may be financially dependent on her spouse and have no way to support herself and her children. She may see no way out of the relationship.
The signs of domestic violence No one should try to diagnose situations of domestic violence. But being aware of the signs of domestic violence is the first step in getting help or offering support to someone who may be at risk. The signs of domestic violence include being afraid of one's spouse or of breaking up the relationship
rough treatment -- including grabbing, pinching, shoving, or hitting
emotional abuse -- putdowns, embarrassment, or humiliation in private or in front of others
social isolation -- not being allowed to see or talk to relatives or friends
property destruction -- destroying one's property or things
threats of violence -- against the victim, her children, or the people she loves
threats of suicide -- "If you leave me, I'll . . ."
Here are signs that someone you care about may be a victim of domestic violence: unexplained bruises or injuries
increased or unexplained absences from work
harassing phone calls at work or at home
withdrawal from friends, family, or fellow service members
If you think someone you know is subject to domestic violence If you are concerned that a friend, relative, or fellow service member may be a victim of domestic violence, it is important to report your suspicion to a Family Advocacy Program (FAP) representative. If you are a service member you are required to report the situation. While many people are uncomfortable raising an issue they believe is "none of their business," or fear that reporting suspicions will adversely affect a service member's career, domestic violence can be a matter of life and death. Here are additional ways that you can offer support to someone affected by domestic violence: Show your concern. Let the victim know you are ready to listen and provide help whenever she's ready. You might begin by saying, "Has anyone been hurting you or threatening you?" Or, "I'm concerned for your safety. I'm here to help."
Let her know that you believe her.
Tell the woman that she doesn't have to stay in an abusive relationship and that help is available.
Urge her to contact her installation's Family Advocacy Program representative, command chaplain, or Victims' Advocate. You can also give her the toll-free number of the National Domestic Violence Hot Line, listed below.
If you are worried that a friend may be a victim of domestic violence, provide her with resources and hot line numbers. You might say, "I'm afraid for your safety. Here's a number to call." Then give the person the number of the National Domestic Violence Hot Line at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD). Make sure the numbers are written down but not left lying around the house if the abuser is living with her. Help is also available to callers in Spanish and to other non-English speakers. More resources are listed at the end of this tip sheet.
Encourage the victim to seek medical attention for any injuries she receives.
Remind her of the impact of domestic violence on children. Whether or not they physically experience violence, children who live in violent households suffer emotional and psychological damage. They may grow up to be abusers or victims of domestic violence. In a growing number of states, domestic violence is considered child abuse and needs to be reported to authorities.
Remind the woman that nothing she does or does not do justifies violence against her. There is no excuse for domestic violence; the abuser is accountable for his actions, regardless of stresses or other factors. The victim is not responsible for the domestic violence. You might say, "You don't deserve to be treated this way."
Remind the person that abusers rarely stop without help, regardless of promises. An incident of domestic violence is often followed by a "honeymoon" period, but when tensions mount, the violent behavior returns. In fact, the severity and frequency of domestic violence tends to escalate over time. You might say, "I'm afraid it will only get worse over time."
Be there for the person. A victim of domestic violence may need you to make phone calls for her, go with her to the police, or help with child care as she works out a safety plan. Although you can't do it all, ask and do what you can do to help.
Don't ignore the situation. A domestic violence situation can get worse over time, putting the victim and children in jeopardy.
Respect the woman's decisions, even if she returns to the abuser. Be sure she knows that your support remains available regardless of how she handles the situation. Often, women return to their abuser several times before leaving for good. If the woman is staying in a violent relationship, your continued help, support, and encouragement are vital.
If you are experiencing domestic violence Talk with a friend, co-worker, relative, or neighbor about what's happening. Seek support.
Contact the Family Advocacy Program specialist at your installation.
Let your leadership know about your situation, just in case your abuser shows up at your workplace.
Document evidence of violence. If you go to a hospital or to see your doctor, explain what happened. Ask your doctor to document it in your file. Keep any evidence of violence, such as photos of bruises and injuries. Save any threatening e-mail or voice-mail messages. Consider filing a complaint with the police.
Plan ahead in case you need to leave on short notice. Gather important documents like birth certificates, health insurance cards, Social Security cards, checkbook, bank records, and driver's license in one place. If you don't have access to a credit card in your own name, save a secret fund of cash. If possible, keep a change of clothing for yourself and your children, other personal care items, and an extra set of car keys at a friend's or relative's house or at work.
Get help. Information about legal assistance, restraining orders, counseling, shelters, and resources in your community are listed below.
Plan ways to protect yourself Have a safe place to go if you feel you are going to be physically harmed, preferably with someone your spouse does not know. Friends and relatives, while closest to you and perhaps the easiest to talk with and ask for assistance, are not safe people to stay with because your spouse will know where they are. However, they may have friends or distant family members with whom you may stay.
If you have children, have a secret code that alerts them that they need to leave the home and go to a designated location, such as the home of a neighbor who is willing to help during a crisis.
Know that within the military service, allowing a child to witness physical abuse is considered child abuse and must be reported to your installation FAP, command, or military law enforcement immediately.
Have alternate plans for school and child care. Abusing spouses may try to take children from school and child care in order to gain control of the situation if you have decided to leave. Any restraining order should include your children if there is reason to believe that they would be in danger as well.
Stay out of the kitchen where knives are readily available or areas where firearms may be kept if your spouse is becoming violent.
Know all exits in your home. Rehearse getting out of the house when your spouse is not around.
Have a cell phone available to call for help. If you cannot afford one, or your spouse does not allow you to have a cell phone, there are recycled cell phones available through domestic violence prevention programs that function only for 911 calls.
Remember that you are the only one who can make the decision to leave an abusive relationship. You may be too frightened to take immediate action; however, with support you can find the courage to change your situation. While you may feel alone, there are many others who have suffered from domestic violence and there are those who are willing to listen and to help. Where to find help Here is what to do if you or someone you know is in immediate danger: Dial 911 or, if on a military installation, call your military law enforcement office if you or someone else is in immediate danger of assault or violence. Call the police if you see or hear episodes of violence. For example, if you hear a violent fight in your neighborhood or building, call the police.
Here is what to do if you or someone you know needs help but is not under immediate threat: Call the National Domestic Violence Hot Line at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD). The hot line can provide information on finding shelters, housing, counseling, job training, and legal assistance in your area. It also provides local resources for those who commit domestic violence. The Web site address is http://www.ndvh.org.
Contact your installation's Family Advocacy Program representative, command chaplain, or Victims' Advocate.
Other sources of help include: American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence http://www.abanet.org/domviol Provides resources and information on domestic violence, the law, and finding legal assistance. Family Violence Prevention Fund 1-415-252-8900 or 1-800-595-4889 (TDD) 1-212-925-6635 http://endabuse.org Provides resources and publications on a variety of topics related to domestic violence, divorce, and other issues affecting women. Also provides assistance on domestic violence in immigrant communities. Military Homefront http://www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil The official Department of Defense site for Quality of Life information. Click on Troops and Families to access the Family Advocacy Program (FAP). National Sexual Violence Resource Center 1-877-739-3895 http://www.nsvrc.org Provides 24-hour access to information, resources, and research regarding sexual assault. U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women http://www.usdoj.gov/ovw Provides publications, research, and links to online resources on issues such as stalking and sexual assault. Your installation's support services Depending on your service branch, your Fleet and Family Support Center, Marine Corps Community Services, Airman and Family Readiness Center, or Army Community Service Center offers programs and services that can help you with domestic violence issues. Military OneSource This free 24-hour service, provided by the Department of Defense, is available to all active duty, Guard, and Reserve members and their families. Consultants provide information and make referrals on a wide range of issues. You can reach the program by telephone at 1-800-342-9647 or through the Web site at http://www.militaryonesource.com. Written with the help of Rebecca Dion, M.S.S., L.C.S.W., Q.C.S.W., C.E.A.P. Ms. Dion is regional director of Behavioral Health Residential Services at Northwestern Human Services and is a member of the National Association of Social Workers. She is a past board member of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse.
Victims of abuse often feel isolated and discouraged. For the families of service members, this isolation is more intense because they may live far from extended family and friends. Fortunately, the military has programs and resources to help victims of domestic abuse. One of those programs, Transitional Compensation, helps alleviate the financial hardship family members have to face when they decide to leave an abusive relationship. Eligibility Transitional Compensation is available to the spouses and children of service members who have been separated from military service or sentenced to a forfeiture of all pay and allowances due to domestic abuse. Family members become eligible for Transitional Compensation under the following circumstances: The family member must have been living in the home or married to the service member when the incident or incidents occurred.
The service member must have served at least 30 days on active duty.
The service member must be convicted of a dependent-abuse offense and:
separated from military service under a court martial sentence,
sentenced to a forfeiture of all pay and allowances by a court martial for a dependent-abuse offense,or
administratively separated from military service, at least in part, for a dependent-abuse offense.
A dependent-abuse offense must be listed as a reason for the separation or forfeiture, although it does not have to be the primary reason. However, it is very difficult to add dependent abuse as a reason for separation after the service member has left the military.
Compensation The goal of Transitional Compensation is to encourage family members to report domestic abuse when it occurs. In addition to financial compensation, it includes other benefits. Amount of compensation. The compensation amount is based on the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which changes annually. Current DIC amounts can be found at the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site at http://www.vba.va.gov (follow the links under "Benefits" and "Compensation & Pension").
Length of time compensation is available. Compensation is available for a minimum of 12 months or the unserved portion of the service member's obligated active service, whichever is longer. However, compensation will not extend beyond 36 months.
Other benefits. As part of the Transitional Compensation program, you may be eligible for other benefits, including:
Applying for Transitional Compensation. Your installation's Family Advocacy Office or Legal Assistance Office can help you apply for Transitional Compensation. Compensation will begin once the application has been approved.
Ineligibility. You will become ineligible for benefits if you remarry or move back in with the former service member while receiving benefits. If compensation is available for more than 12 months, you will be required to recertify your eligibility for Transitional Compensation annually.
Additional assistance Transitional Compensation is just one of the resources available to you as a victim of domestic violence. Your installation's Family Support Center or Family Advocacy Program has victim advocates who can: help you develop a safety plan for you and your family
help you access a safe house or shelter
accompany you to a medical exam or court appearance
refer you to additional military and civilian resources
help you apply for Transitional Compensation
It's important to remember that, as a victim of domestic violence, you are not alone. There are resources available to provide information and to help you make the best decisions for you and your family. Other resources National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE http://www.ndvh.org Educational information and a "How to Get Help" section. Marine Corps http://www.usmc-mccs.org/transcomp Information on Transitional Compensation as well as a directory of victim advocates organized by Marine Corps installation. Army http://www.myarmylifetoo.com Information on Transitional Compensation and victim advocates. Follow the links for Family Advocacy under "Home and Family Life." Air Force http://ask.afpc.randolph.af.mil Enter "Transitional Compensation" in the search box for information about eligibility and applications. Be sure to contact your nearest Family Advocacy Office for more information and help. Your installation's support services You can find more information on Transitional Compensation through your installation's Family Advocacy Program or the Legal Assistance Office. To find the nearest Legal Assistance Office, visit the U.S. Armed Forces Legal Assistance Web site at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil. Military OneSource This free 24-hour service, provided by the Department of Defense, is available to all active duty, Guard, and Reserve members and their families. Consultants provide information and make referrals on a wide range of issues. You can reach the program by telephone at 1-800-342-9647or through the Web site at http://www.militaryonesource.com.
Written with the assistance of Karen Roksandic, Navy Transitional Compensation Manager.