Family Advocacy Program combats domestic violence

By Staff Sgt. AJ Hyatt | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | April 15, 2015

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — (This article is part of Joint Base Charleston's Integrated Delivery System series. These stories focus on an IDS program, highlighting their services.)

Domestic abuse exists throughout society ... it does not discriminate. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds and economic levels.  Unfortunately, military families are not exempt from this form of violence. 

In fiscal year 2014, Joint Base Charleston Family Advocacy received 87 referrals for partner maltreatment and 64 referrals for child maltreatment, according to Brenda Edmond, 628th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program Outreach Program manager. This abuse can have devastating consequences on an individual, a family and the mission.

Partner or child abuse is defined as a pattern of behavior resulting in purposeful physical injury, emotional or psychological abuse, neglectful behavioral and/or sexual abuse.  Partner abuse includes exercising economic control or interfering with personal liberty of one's partner. 

The Family Advocacy Program's professional staff members assist families who suffer from such violence. The staff includes clinical social workers, nurses, a victim advocate and administrative support. To ensure FAP services are available to all Joint Base Charleston service members, FAP has offices on both the Air Base and the Weapons Station.  

"The FAP staff is committed to teaching couples life skills to successfully cope  with the frustrations of family life, without endangering the health of themselves or their children," said Edmond.

The primary mission of the FAP is to prevent incidents of family maltreatment - domestic violence and child abuse/neglect.  Military members, retires and their beneficiaries have a plethora of services available to prevent maltreatment from occurring.  Family Advocacy offers Anger and Stress Management classes, Couples Communication and a variety of parenting classes.  Their "New Parent Support program" provides early education and support for expecting parents continuing until the child is three years of age.   Even if there has been no maltreatment in the home, Family Advocacy can provide at risk couples counseling through our Family Advocacy Strength-Based Therapy (FAST).  Although many people are unaware of FAST, this service provides immediate, short-term counseling aimed to quickly end the conflict escalation. FAST also helps the couple begin to identify and more effectively address the most serious relationship concerns.

In spite of prevention efforts, abuse still occurs. When abuse happens, FAP will provide counseling and safety planning for these families. FAP works to ensure the safety of victims, helps military families overcome the effects of violence and attempts to change destructive behavior patterns. 

"We are committed to helping the entire family to become healthy. Therefore, we provide counseling for all family members either on the installation or through appropriate referrals to off base agencies," Edmond said. "We have a victim advocate whose primary role is to help victims of abuse with safety planning and court advocacy." 

Although reports of partner abuse come to FAP through various avenues, it's important that victims are aware that they have the option of making a restricted report of domestic abuse, said Edmond.

Restricted reporting allows an adult victim of domestic abuse to disclose the details of his or her abuse to family advocacy personnel without requiring that the offender's commander or law enforcement to be notified. Restricted reporting eliminates barriers to the victim accessing services and allows the victim to receive supportive counseling, advocacy and safety planning. Restricted reporting is not an option for children who are victims of abuse. 

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is appropriate to reflect on society's collective responsibility to prevent the abuse and neglect that can rob so many children of their childhood.  By ensuring the sense of security and well-being in families, we really can make a difference.

FAP is an integral part of the Joint Base Charleston's Integrated Delivery System (IDS). The IDS is a working group consisting of organizations that provide family services and prevention and education activities related to individual, family and community concerns.

The FAP staff is available Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but the victim advocate is available to victims of abuse 24/7 and is accessible through the command post after duty hours. 

For more information about Joint Base Charleston's Family Advocacy, please call 843-963-6972 for the Air Base and 843-764-7435 for the Naval Weapons Station.