Partner abuse is on the rise at Fort Bragg and the numbers are high compared to other Army installations.
In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the Fort Bragg Family Advocacy Program seeks to raise awareness about domestic violence and highlight resources and information available at the installation to combat the rising trend.
Tom Hill, FAP manager, said in fiscal year 2012, partner abuse throughout the Army was high but experienced a 30 percent drop in 2013, likely because of command interest. In FY 14, it reduced slightly again but began to steadily increase in FY 15.
“It’s hard to say why it’s on the rise,” Hill said. “It could be because more Soldiers are back home from deployments.”
With deployments winding down, Soldiers are home for longer periods of time and issues that may have been placed on the back burner during their deployments are coming to surface.
Emotional, physical and mental complications from deployments, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, can also lead to a strain on a marriage and potential for abuse to occur.
“PTSD can cause a person to isolate and be more irritable and excitable and can aggravate problems that were already there ... (this) is what we find happens,” Hill said.
Army leadership plays a key role in preventing domestic violence by recognizing warning signs and knowing the proper steps to take if there is a case of partner abuse in their ranks.
“It’s important to try to recognize the early warning signs so it never gets to the point of blows or domestic violence,” Hill said.
The most obvious warning sign is if a servicemember is going through a divorce or break up.
“We have a lot of cases that crop up during that time, especially with North Carolina requiring a year of separation before divorcing. Some spouses will live together during that time which can be a recipe for disaster,” Hill said.
Watching out for new parents is also important, Hill explained. Becoming new parents can be stressful and may be overwhelming for both parents.
Bringing any resentment into a marriage is also very dangerous. Resentment can be a cancer in a marriage, Hill pointed out.
Having good communication skills can help prevent domestic abuse. If couples learn to effectively communicate, they will be able to discuss problems and express their emotions in a positive way.
Fort Bragg offers a variety of classes including Couples Communication as well as Anger Management and Stress Management. Family Member Behavioral Health at Womack Army Medical Center also offers anger and stress groups for those with severe problems.
Leaders must also get to know their Soldiers better, not just for cases of partner abuse but also child abuse, suicide prevention and overall well-being.
“Know what they’re doing after hours, where they live, things like that,” Hill said “That’s the biggest thing a lot of units are doing. They are trying to create a system where at least one leader in the unit knows where every Soldier lives to visit informally.”
Leaders who have servicemembers in domestic violence situations must report incidents to the FAP so an assessment can be made.
When a case is reported, usually the couple will be separated for 72 hours during an investigation. A team at WAMC will engage the Family to figure out what happened and determine their needs, Hill said.
“About 60 percent of cases reported receive treatment and do not end up being ‘met’ cases of partner abuse,” he said.
A met case is one that meets certain criteria in order for it to be considered mild, moderate or severe abuse. If a case has met the moderate or severe abuse criteria, it could be a career threatening situation for the abuser.
If the abuse reported is minor, it could be an opportunity for the couple to get help without repercussions to a Soldier’s career.
If someone is in a situation where they are being abused, victim advocates are available at Fort Bragg 24/7 by calling 322-3418.
“If someone is worried about reporting, they can do so anonymously. Just don’t give your name. We make a point not to get caller’s identity unless someone is in imminent danger. We want to be there for people to keep them safe and to answer questions,” Hill said.
There are a lot of reasons a spouse won’t come forward or who will go back to their abusive spouse. Some reasons include love, finances and fear. But there are support services in place.
For example transitional compensation is available to victims who have a met case, which caused the Soldier to be discharged. They will receive three years of pay and benefits. Also, foreign born spouses can be protected from deportation if they leave their abusive spouse.
Call FAP at 396-5521 or visit the website www.fortbraggmwr.com/acs/family-advocacy/ for questions or concerns about domestic abuse.
Domestic Violence Awareness events:
Pay day information tables — Today and Oct. 15, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., North and South Post commissary
Month of Unity — Wear purple on Friday, and Oct. 9, 16, 23 and 30
“Leading the Way” Domestic Violence Awareness Month symposium — Wednesday, 9 to 10 a.m., Family Readiness Group Center
Couples Communication workshops — Oct. 8 and 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Army Community Service
Relationship Connections workshops — Oct. 15, 6 to 8:30 p.m., and Oct. 30, 9 to 11:30 a.m.; FRG Center
The Resiliency Academy — Oct. 20, 21, 27, and 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; FRG Center
Medical Grand Rounds — In memory of 2nd Lt. Holly James, Oct. 21, 8 to 10 a.m.; Weaver Auditorium WAMC
“Stand Up, Speak Out DV and SHARP” open mic night — Oct. 21, 6 to 8 p.m., Sports USA.
For more information, or to register for a workshop, call 396-5521.