Domestic abuse occurs not only in military communities, but in all communities across the country and around the world.
Domestic abuse occurs no matter one’s gender, language, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, race or religion. A victim can be male or female, just as an offender can be male or female.
In the military, a victim or an offender can be newly enlisted or an officer. Domestic abuse can occur with couples who are just dating; it can occur with a couple married 50 years.
As domestic abuse victim advocates, a large part of our job is responding to reports of abuse or requests for assistance from people in abusive relationships. However, another large part of our job — and one that we put a lot of effort into — is prevention.
In an ideal world, we could eradicate domestic abuse, but we don’t have any such grandiose misconceptions. Rather, we merely try to take as many steps as we can to reduce instances of domestic abuse in our community. We get the word out about reporting options, resources and ways to recognize if you are in an abusive relationship. We do this by giving briefs to service members, speaking with spouses, educating commands and ombudsmen on how to spot warning signs in the families they serve and informing them of available resources, and working with community agencies that respond to domestic abuse.
As President Barack Obama stated in his 2012 Presidential Proclamation: “All Americans can play a role in ending domestic violence. Each of us can promote healthy relationships, speak out stand with survivors we know, and change attitudes that perpetuate the cycle of abuse. We must also ensure that survivors of domestic violence know they are not alone, and that there are resources available to them.”
I agree that one of the most crucial tools anyone can provide a victim of domestic abuse is support — emotional support, someone to listen, someone to understand, someone who will not judge, someone who will not tell them what to do but rather support the decisions they make.
As advocates, we understand the complexity of abusive relationships. We do not tell victims to leave, nor do we ask victims to leave. We provide victims with education, promote safety, provide resources and assist them in the choices they make regarding their relationship. We also understand that couples can get past the abuse, but rarely without assistance. With counseling, they can turn a relationship that is unhealthy into one that is healthy.
The Fleet & Family Support Center offers individual and couples counseling, and it has couples workshops that focus on improving your connection, improving your communication and promoting effective and healthy problem-solving.
The FFSC also has victim advocates to assist with safety planning, protective orders, shelter, questions regarding divorce or child custody and general needs.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and you want to speak confidentially with an advocate, please call Laura Hanson at 805-982-4117 or Rosie Barnes at 805-982-3788.
— For more information on any of the FFSC workshops or counseling services, call 805-982-5037 or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FFSC.NBVC.