Fishing buddies:

Two friends are meeting to go fishing over the weekend and the one friend shows up at the lake with a black eye. He says his girlfriend punched him and slapped him because there wasn’t enough money for her to buy some concert tickets online before they sold out. He jokes about it because he says he’s 6 foot three inches and she’s 4 feet short and 98 pounds soaking wet.

Super Bowl party:

A couple go to their friend’s house for a Super Bowl party. One of the friends is looking at their smart phone while watching the game. All of a sudden he starts screaming at his wife and yanks her off the sofa by her hair (after reading a reply to her from an old high school boyfriend on her Facebook page).

Should something be said or done? An initial thought is usually, to question what could be done.

Could the offending behavior be defined as abuse? Is it better to leave any response up to the person who is being abused so that there is no invasion of privacy, or so that a friendship is not affected. Are there worries about getting an abuser in trouble or of ruining a military career.

What is the law? Why? Army policy says when a leader or Soldier hears about a partner abuse situation, it needs to be reported to the Family Advocacy Program at Womack Army Medical Center. In each reported case, couples  are assessed for what happened and for treatment or other assistance that can make things better. Part of this includes separating the couple for at least 72 hours, no matter how minor the abuse might seem so that the partners can cool off, think about what to do without influence from a controlling partner and to get that assessment mentioned above. Most brigades have “Discretionary Rooms” in the barracks for this to happen, even if it means the victim has to go there. There are also safe houses in secret locations off post for victims and their children.

But if a friend has a wife who cheats, is he really to blame? The Army view is that there is never any excuse for a spouse or partner to physically hurt, verbally abuse or to  control a partner. Some abusers may use the excuse that a partner drove them to it with wild spending or cheating or craziness, but those same people can usually exercise control around a boss who exhibits the same behavior.

In battle, a hero servicemember has a reputation for being fantastic at using incredible self-control around civilians, often in very dangerous situations. Hit a first sergeant or boss at Best Buy, and jail is the penalty. If control can be maintained with non-commissoned officers and officers in authority, then it can also be maintained with a spouse.

Every year people are seriously hurt or killed because things got out of control, including here at Fort Bragg. The sad and dangerous thing is that the cases that involve death usually involve a Soldier who has a bright career ahead of them. It’s dangerous to take a chance and imply that the abuse is just a one-time thing or nothing serious. A victim who sees friends do nothing may also think it is not safe to go to that friend for help in other instances when it is really needed. They may also think that no one really cares.

Penalty for abuse:

Won’t abusers get into trouble more often than receiving the help that they need? Of the more than 1,000 situations referred to the FAP during the last year, all couples or Families were provided private, free help. Only one third had the potential for getting a Soldier in trouble by being labeled a bona- fide Family abuse case.

Most of these small number of bona fide cases involved serious abuse, such as choking, punching and other injuries. One of the biggest complaints about being reported is that the couple’s privacy or reputation is ruined when “everyone” at the unit or neighborhood finds out what happened. Some victims truly believe that no one — not the police, a social worker, or Superman — can keep the victim from being killed by a mate, even if the abuse is reported. But something can be done in every situation.

It’s erroneous to think that everyone has problems with abuse? All couples go through big problems, but there is never an excuse for becoming violent with a spouse or partner.

Violence can be avoided by leaving the home before one’s anger explodes. Also, by getting a third person to help the couple better communicate, the potential for abuse is minimized.

In 2012, bona fide partner abuse cases represented a one and half percent of the married military couples at Fort Bragg.

Measures to prevent abuse:

What can someone do to minimize or prevent some of the problems that might happen when these cases are reported to authorities?

Go together.

Tell a friend who is a victim or offender that he or she must do something to get help and go talk to a first sergeant or commander. Ask the leader if the situation can be kept strictly confidential between the person accompanying the alleged abuser, the abuser, the leader and FAP so that others in the unit will not find out and privacy is protected.

Get advice.

If unsure of what to do after seeing friends in trouble or being abused, there are experts to call for advice about what to do. If worried about being reported, the easiest option is to simply not give your name.

Call someone.

Call either Army Community Service at 396-5521 or the victim hotline, 24-hours a day, seven days a week at 322-3418. Or try the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Make sure things don’t get out of control.

Make sure an abuser does not go home for a few days. This is actually Fort Bragg and Department of Defense policy. A unit leaders are required to put a military protective order in place at the time of report for at least 72 hours or longer, no matter how minor the report may seem.

Know who to get help from. Some experts to call for help include: Family Member Behavioral Health (907-7869); the Bragg Victim Hotline (322-3418); the WAMC Emergency Room social worker on-call (907-6559); the Military Police (396-0391); the Fayetteville Family Justice Center (433-3418), or just Google “Partner Abuse help.”

Find expert help. 

Unit leaders mean well but they are not expert on how to handle Family violence situations. That is why leaders are required to only separate a couple but also immediately call Family Advocacy. Those experts know how to objectively find out what is going on and because they work for the hospital as an outside agency the couple is assured that the unit is fairly handling the situation without any bias.

Don’t give up on your friend if he/she is a victim.

Consider that the unthinkable will probably happen and your friend will stay with their abusive partner and might be abused again. Realize it is often very hard to leave for reasons such as love, forgiveness, compassion, finances that make perfect sense to them. Be there for them and don’t think they are crying wolf or fools for staying and taking it. The typical partner abuse victim might not truly leave until it has happened 7 times. Intervene the first time you know so you can live with yourself that you started the help early. Realize that a victim who is staying already may feel very bad about themselves to the point of depression or worse. Don’t add to that hurt by getting down on them for not doing more. Help him/her put together a safety plan to get hold of you/others or to get out if they eventually decide they must get out.

Look for earlier warning signs than abuse.

It’s so much easier for you and your friend to find help before there is obvious abuse. For example you go over to your friend’s house for dinner and notice they really argue badly or one calls the other names or one partner has a serious gripe with his/her mate that they don’t want to talk about. This can lead to a really painful relationship. One study found that depression in 50 percent of women is directly related to their relationship with their partner. Help may be as simple as inviting them to go with you and your partner to one of the Army Community Service or Chaplains couple’s workshops. The one at ACS is a lot of fun, only a few hours long and teaches any couple great tips to communicate better (396-5521 for info or to sign up). ACS also has money workshops for couples having problems making ends meet or help with daycare or the dependent spouse who can’t find a job. There are at least 5 ways to get free couples counseling on and off post and a couple of them don’t keep records if that is a worry. Call Military One Source (1-800-342-9647) or ACS (396-5521) for more information.    

Know who to get help from. 

It’s amazing how easy it is to get hold of an expert and how that person called may come up with one point that helps everything fall into place. Some of those experts to call for help include: Family Member Behavioral Health (907-7869); the Bragg Victim Hotline (322-3418); the Womack Hospital Emergency Room social worker on-call (907-6559); the Military Police (396-0391); the Fayetteville Family Justice Center (433-3418), or just Google “Partner Abuse help”.