Isabelle Greene (not her real name) will end her military career in a few months.
It will be one of several losses Greene has experienced after enduring an abusive relationship.
The first time Greene was abused by her spouse was before she got married, she said. But, in denial, she carried through with the ceremony.
The second time was within weeks of the honeymoon.
After that, there wasn’t any more denial, only the reality of living with an abusive spouse, Eric (not his real name).
There was the time she was pushed down a flight of stairs while holding their infant child; being choked and kicked; and having her head bashed against a bathtub.
The physical abuse came on the heels of having filed orders of protection against her spouse.
Because Isabelle continued to have contact with Eric despite no-contact orders issued by her command, and because she disobeyed protection orders that she had legally put in place, Isabelle, at first was demoted. The result is that she has remained in the same rank for too long and will be forced to separate from the military.
“I’m over my time limit,” she said.
By exposing her children to an abusive environment, Isabelle has lost custody of them more than once.
The children may not have been old enough to make adult decisions about where they wanted to stay or with whom they wanted to live. However, Isabelle said the older ones definitely recognized that there was something “not right” about their parents’ relationship.
“She (my daughter) didn’t like him. She didn’t care for him,” Isabelle said.
“I would lie to my son and try to hide it (abuse),” she added. “In one incident, my son tried to protect me.”
Outside the home, extended Family members did not know about the abuse.
They only found out about it when social services removed the children from the home and placed them in foster care.
Eric was a charmer. So much so that he had everyone fooled into thinking he was a really good guy. He was the type of man who would spread his coat to let a lady walk over a puddle of water, Isabelle explained, so no one knew he was abusive.
When he became known as an abuser, the Army moved to separate Eric from service, but being a charmer, he won on appeal and was allowed to stay in the military, she added.
But, it would not be for long.
In the meantime, Isabelle said she was depressed. After the children were removed from the home, she was only allowed to see them under supervised visitation and she’d been ordered to take parenting classes.
At this point, Isabelle was suicidal.
Her life was in disarray. But one program on Fort Bragg — Victim Advocate Program — would help her to piece her life together again.
Through VAP, Isabelle began taking classes on parenting and stress management.
Her advocate, Donna Johnson, began not only speaking to Isabelle’s command on her behalf and accompanying her to court, but also communicating with Eric’s command to ensure he was being held accountable for his actions.
“The advocate is with you from start to finish,” Isabelle said. “Every time I went to court, my advocate was there. At one point, I was ready to give up. Your advocate . . . they care. They’re not just doing a job — they care,” she explained.
“I believe in her,” said Johnson.
As an advocate, Johnson also fills an educator’s role.
Single parents often look for a mate who will shoulder the child-rearing and financial responsibilities of being the sole provider, she explained. It has been important to teach Isabelle not to place herself in the same situation moving forward.
“Domestic violence is like any other disease — alcoholism or drug addiction. You have to get to the root to solve it,” Johnson explained.
In hindsight, Isabelle can easily identify red flags and triggers in her relationship prior to getting married.
Eric was possessive, easily angered, jealous and verbally abusive, she said. He had suffered a troubled childhood.
She thought she could “fix” him.
Even after the abuse began, she did not want to leave the relationship, and she did not want him to get into trouble with his command.
“I didn’t want him to get into trouble. I just wanted him to get help,” she said.
It’s on par with what most victims experience.
“Ultimately, they don’t want to leave the spouse, they just want him to stop hurting them,” explained Johnson.
Victims often don’t recognize that they are being abused.
FAP has a lethality assessment that can be done so that Soldiers and Family members can identify when they are indeed involved in abusive relationships, said Robin Spann, victim advocacy coordinator, FAP.
If a person can affirm that they have been forced to have sex against their will, that a partner has threatened suicide upon breakup or has threatened to take the children, then they are abuse victims, she explained.
The number of abuse cases varies depending on various factors, said Spann. But, FAP handled 141 cases in May, as opposed to 104 cases in April, she said.
Other resources available to help victims are referrals to the Department of Social Work at Womack Army Medical Center and to the Cumberland County Department of Social Services.
“If you want help, it’s available. It it’s something that we don’t offer, we’ll do everything in our power to find it,” Spann said.
In the meantime, Isabelle will soon leave the service. Her ex-husband has been discharged and she now has advice for anybody who finds himself or herself swallowed whole by an abusive relationship.
“Leave. They’re never going to change unless they get some help. But, even then, I think they get the help because they are made to do it. Get out because you can lose your children. You can lose your life.”
For more information about getting help for domestic abuse on Fort Bragg, visit the FMWR website at www.fortbraggmwr.com.