No matter your familiarity with the topic, the devastating results of domestic violence are apparent to us all. The emotional wounds that victims are left to deal with remain long after they're physically out of harms way. Plus, if not stopped, abusers can escalate their violence until their victims and their own lives are turned upside down- domestic violence threatens the family, careers, self-respect, and even freedom of all parties involved.
Such a situation can be even more problematic for military service members or veterans and their families. Victims often find themselves in a very compromising position; if they approach the Commander to report domestic violence, they know their spouse or significant other's career will more than likely be completely destroyed. While there is no excuse for abuse, PTSD and the like have been shown to result in service members acting aggressively towards their loved ones. What's more, certain scenarios are easier solved without immediate reporting due to the long term affects. For these reasons and more, we feel as though every service member and his/her spouse should be aware of the Family Advocacy Program, or the FAP. This program works to ensure the safety of victims and help military families overcome the effects of violence and change destructive behavior patterns as a family advocate. Family Advocate staff members are trained to respond to incidents of abuse and neglect, support victims, and offer prevention and treatment. This service also allows for restricted reporting of domestic violence. In restricted reporting, the Commander of the service member is not immediately notified. The Family Advocate then provides prevention programs including counseling, classes and workshops, and public awareness campaigns. Restrictive reporting is in place to help identify domestic violence in its earliest stages.
Of course, victims at imminent risk of serious harm are not eligible for restrictive reporting. If this is the case, or if the preventative measures prove ineffective and the situation continues or worsens, the next step is to file a Military Protective Order, or MPO which is considered unrestricted reporting. An MPO is issued by a Commander to a service member to protect victims of domestic abuse/violence. MPO's are versatile in that they can order the abuser to stay away from the family home, discontinue any contact with his/her victim, attend counseling, and more. Plus, Commanders are able to tailor to the specific needs of individuals.
Often, issues that are complicated enough for civilian couples and families are only more complex for those in the military. Luckily, services such as the Family Advocacy Program exist to protect those that do so much in protecting our nation. Even those we call in for back-up need a little back-up sometimes.