JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Domestic violence cuts across all ages regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion or nationality. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating.
Often times, domestic violence is overlooked, excused or even denied especially when there are no clear signs of physical abuse. However, domestic violence is not just physical, it also includes emotional and sexual abuse which can leave its victims with deep, lasting scars.
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the United States Air Force and Navy are observing the month of October as an opportunity to inform Airmen, Sailors and spouses about domestic violence, how to prevent it as well as provide reporting options for victims.
"Our goal is to prevent domestic violence throughout the ranks," said Albertha Powell, Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station Family Advocacy treatment manager. "We observe this month by encouraging service members and their loved ones to take steps to learn and practice healthier behaviors by offering counseling and courses provided through the Joint Base Family Advocacy Program."
Domestic violence can be devastating for any service member's career. They could find themselves having to deal with non-judicial punishments in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, fines, penalties, or even jail time.
"The majority of the time a service member will reach out for help before a problem escalates to a domestic violence situation," Powell said. "Unfortunately this is a very common problem, but even one instance of domestic violence is one too many."
A common misconception is that an abuser is unable to control their behavior, however according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, this is a deliberate choice made by the perpetrator in order to control their partner. Often utilizing tactics to manipulate a situation or exert their power such as: dominance, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial and blame.
"There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most tell-tale sign is if a person fears their partner," said Brenda Edmond, JB Charleston - Air Base Family Advocacy Outreach program manager. Other signs include a partner who belittles, degrades, isolates or tries to control their loved one.
"If a person feels like they have to walk on eggshells around their partner, constantly watching what they say and do in order to avoid a blow-up, then most likely that relationship is unhealthy and abusive," said Edmond.
Studies conducted by National Domestic Violence organizations show that most of the time after an abuser has hit or attacked their victim they may feel remorse for their actions and apologize profusely. However, once a person has rationalized their actions, they will more than likely cycle back to hurting their victim again.
"Often the abusing partner will fall into a common pattern or cycle of violence, going from abuse to guilt, followed by excuses. They will then fall into their 'normal behavior' and from there they begin to escalate, blaming their partner for their loss of control, going back to the beginning of the cycle again," said Edmond.
Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends and co-workers. If there are children involved and growing up witnessing domestic violence, they can become seriously affected by this crime.
"Even if a child is not hit, the emotional abuse is substantial to a child. As we get older we learn how to handle conflict and anger but our methods are usually taught to us by our parents," said Edmond. "Long-term exposure to violence in the home will teach a child that violence is a normal way of life which may increase their risk of becoming a victim or abuser themselves."
While it is impossible to know what goes on behind closed doors, there are obvious signs and symptoms of domestic violence. Those signs and symptoms include: frequent injuries or 'accidents', missing work or social functions, dressing in heavy clothing to cover bruises or scars, wearing sunglasses indoors, or long sleeves during the summer. A person may appear depressed or suicidal, seem afraid, overly anxious to please their partner or are constantly checking in.
"If you suspect someone is a victim of domestic violence, talk to them and express your concern. We prefer the victim and offender to call the office in order to receive help, but anyone can call if they suspect that there is any domestic violence going on," said Powell. "We have victim advocates who can help by providing them with military and civilian resources as well as give information on safe places to reside and their reporting options."
There are two types of reporting options for victims; restricted and unrestricted. The restricted reporting procedure does not involve the military chain of command or law enforcement.
Unrestricted reports will include some type of investigation by command and or law enforcement. Both options allow a victim the full range of advocacy, medical and counseling services.
There are a variety of courses that teach healthy relationship skills offered by Family Advocacy. These include anger and stress management, conflict resolution and others that may help before a conflict arises. All courses are free and available to both active duty military and spouses.
"These services are available because we believe in the importance of preventing abusive behavior," Edmond said. "If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up. Abuse occurs but there are programs available to help. Express your concern, it may just save a person's life."
For more information or to make a report call the Family Advocacy Program at: 963-6972 (Air Base) or 764-4192 (Weapons Station).