Understanding family violence in the military is an important concern because of the unique stresses faced by military families on a daily basis that could place them at greater risk for family dysfunction. Long separations, such as Deployment to war, can create a stressful lifestyle for military families. In the mid to late 1990s advocates and activists, were able to persuade policy makers that domestic violence constituted a social problem specifically for the military. American foreign policy has resulted in the deployment of U.S. military personnel to nations around the world, providing servicemen opportunities to meet and socialize with local women. Immigrant status keeps many women from seeking help or leaving the abusive relationship, fearing they can’t ask for help and deportation. The servicemen tried to prevent their immigrant wives from gaining independence or leaving the marriage. The military’s approach to prevent, identify and intervene with domestic violence relies heavily on the Family Advocacy Program (FAP).
Family violence may be more common in the military population compared to the civilian population because of higher overall stress levels associated with the military lifestyle (e.g., frequent separations, long work hours, dangerous work environment, etc.). Long separations, such as Deployment to war, can create a stressful lifestyle for military families. Studies have proven long deployments increase the chances of returning with combat trauma, as a result heightens the risk of domestic violence (Rentz et al., 2006).
Understanding family violence in the military is an important concern because of the unique stresses faced by military families on a daily basis that could place them at greater risk for family dysfunction. Members of the armed forces are often required to relocate to another city, state, or country, often resulting in a disruption to family life. They also tend to work long hours and are subject to extended separations in the form of schooling, temporary assignments, or deployment, all of which may interfere with family obligations (Alvarez & Sontiag, 2008).
Domestic Violence in the Military: The History
The Department of Defense has taken a clear stance against family violence. In 1981, Department of Defense Directive 6400.1 required each branch of military service (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) to establish (a) a Family Advocacy Program to prevent and treat child maltreatment and spouse abuse and (b) a confidential central registry to collect and analyze
Family Advocacy Program data (Department of Defense, 2004).
It is unclear whether or not family violence would be more common among military families than among civilian families. Family violence may be more common in the military population compared to the civilian population because of higher overall stress levels associated with the military lifestyle (e.g., frequent separations, long work hours, dangerous work environment, etc.). Soldiers are subject to deployments and relocations that can often lead to a separation from peers and community support networks. Frequent and extensive separations may have a profound impact on marriages, particularly those of short duration, because they present a window of opportunity for the spouse left behind to explore independence and develop other relationships. For those relocated to installations located outside of the continental United States, social and cultural isolation is fairly common (Rentz et al., 2006).
There is an increasing number of active duty military (ADM) women, like their civilian counterparts, at risk for domestic violence (DV). This study illustrates active duty military women’s attitudes and choices concerning the military’s policy on domestic violence. 474 ADM women from all services were interviewed via telephone. Nineteen of whom had experienced DV during their military service (Gielen et al., 2006).
During the study, ADM women were afraid if they were to report domestic violence it would jeopardize their job. In fact, a higher proportion of military women thought regular screening would intensify future abuse (Gielen et al., 2006). This may be related to the military context in which there is mandatory reporting and a lack of confidentiality.
United States Military Culture
Gender-based violence, such as sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence, is a global phenomenon that occurs among military families and within military communities, during peace time” and in time of war. A number of researchers and activists have argued that military culture, shared norms, for example, regarding masculinity, sexuality, violence, and women, is “conducive to rape” and sexual harassment, as well as domestic violence (Adelman, 2003).
In the United States, however, it was not until the mid to late 1990s that advocates and activists, working both within and outside of the military, were able to persuade policy makers that domestic violence constituted a social problem specifically for the military. Widespread media coverage of military-generated sexual harassment and sexual assault scandals as well as reporting of high rates of domestic violence in the U.S. military in Time magazine’s and 60 Minutes’s motivated the Department of Defense to address domestic violence in the military (Adelman, 2003).
Civilian advocates for battered women as well as military personnel warn that domestic violence harms servicewomen and civilian women (and their children) who are married to military servicemen. It also has been argued that domestic violence goes against the “institutional values of the military” and negatively affects military readiness (Adelman, 2003). These include creation of a task force, strengthening of reporting protocols, enhancement of the Family Advocacy Program, and encouragement to create public notice between civilian and military authorities.
Military policies regarding domestic violence diverge from civilian approaches in several significant ways. What constitutes a criminal violation, for example, and who substantiates a complaint of domestic violence conform to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ, n.d.). Privacy and confidentiality are not guaranteed within the military system, which mandates the reporting to unit commanders of suspected cases of domestic violence regarding personnel under their supervision. Military responses to domestic violence differ most clearly from civilian, state-based responses in that the social control mechanism doubles as the offender’s employer.
In the United States, the military or the military base constitutes a relatively isolated and autonomous social and legal entity that produces and is governed by its own language, norms, and laws. This reflects the idealized distance and legal division between military and civilian life in the United States, and as a result, studies of domestic violence in the U.S. military are based on a separation between the civil and the military, making it difficult to conduct comprehensive or comparative research. Orders of protection obtained in a civilian court, for example, may not be enforced within the federal jurisdiction of a military base and vice versa. Much of the concern with and research on military culture and relationships between military culture and domestic violence have been generated in the United States or in countries that host U.S. military bases, due to a number of high-profile cases of sexual harassment, rape, and domestic homicide in the U.S. military (Adelman, 2003).
Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence
Although the Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence (DTFDV) has made a serious attempt to address many of the concerns related to domestic violence in the military, its analysis of battering is highly flawed in key sections of the report. As a result, the report includes inappropriate recommendations for interventions and remedies. Battering is described as an individual, clinical problem in the section on training of military officers and the section on offender accountability. No attention is given to the societal attitudes and belief systems that support such violence and no distinctions are made between normal marital disputes and the pattern of power and control that characterizes domestic violence (DOD, 2004; Rosenthal & McDonald, 2003).
The DTFDV report strongly recommends that training be provided to military officers and presents information that should be included in such training. However, there is a troublesome emphasis within this information on anger management as a remedy in some domestic violence cases. The information states that “anger management classes should only be utilized in ‘low level’ emotional maltreatment cases where there has been no physical violence”. Classifying any domestic violence case as “low level” is problematic and indicates confusion about the dynamics of this specific pattern of behavior. Domestic violence is not about everyday arguments and irritabilities between couples. The pattern of behavior that is generally defined as domestic violence involves coercive, intimidating, frightening, and controlling behavior by one partner toward another. Situations in which such a pattern is present generally involve not only emotional maltreatment but also threats of violence that can quickly escalate into physical abuse (Rosenthal & McDonald, 2003).
Reports of Parental Spousal Violence
In the military, family violence directly jeopardizes the family’s financial security. A battered wife often protects the military husband against legal proceedings initiated by the military. The military also may be more likely to protect officers accused of spousal violence as compared to enlisted soldiers.
Studies indicate that children can accurately report on spousal violence. In the military, 95% of spousal violence occurs in the home and 43% of victims report that children witness the abuse. The study demonstrated that there was as general trend for more spousal violence in the military families with slapping, throwing objects, and an overall measure of violence distinguishing between the military and civilian groups. These differences persisted even when controlling for ethnic background and military rank. Spousal violence was significantly higher in commissioned officers as compared to enlisted personnel. The current study does not address whether the military environment contributes to increased spousal violence or whether individuals prone to abusive behavior are more likely to join the military (Cronin, 1995).
Immigration and Domestic Violence
Each year, hundreds of thousands of women enter the United States as a spouse of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, coming to the United States with significant disadvantages in social status and resources compared with their male partners. Women whose immigrant status is attached to their husbands’ U.S. citizenship enjoy somewhat greater legal protection than do undocumented immigrant women, but they too are vulnerable due to the structure of immigration law (MSCFV, n.d.).
Immigrant status keeps many women from seeking help from abuse or leaving the abusive relationship. Undocumented women fear that if they ask for help, the health or social service provider will turn them in for deportation. However, even battered immigrant women with legal immigrant status feel vulnerable to deportation should they seek help. Asian and Latino immigrant women with spousal visas tied to their abusers also report that fears of deportation maintain their involvement with their batterer (Erez & Bach, 2003).
The United States is considered “a nation of immigrants.” Nevertheless, who is allowed to legally immigrate has varied over time. U.S. immigration and naturalization laws have shaped the resulting immigrant pool in terms of gender, race or nationality, sexual orientation, and marital status. Subsequent changes in immigration policy, including an amnesty initiative in the mid-1980s, led to heterosexual family reunification and an increase in the numbers of women and children who migrated to the United States. Such gendered and sexualized patterns reflect how immigration and naturalization law serves to police the purported moral as well as political boundaries of the nation. These immigration laws affect why, when, how, and with whom women immigrate and their experiences of domestic violence subsequent to arrival in the United States (Erez, Adelman, & Gregory, 2009; Raj & Silverman, 2002).
Some women reported that the increase in emotional, sexual, and physical abuse coincided with immigration-specific activities such as entering the country, filing immigration papers, or accessing social welfare systems. The majority of women who came with their spouses reported that the transition and move to the United States altered the dynamics of the relationship: “He has had more power to manipulate in the U.S. because I am illegal and depended on him and I didn’t have any rights here” (Erez et al., 2009). Although law is not intentionally gender biased, one that creates a status-marriage dependency, such as immigration law, makes immigrant women more vulnerable to the domestic violence power dynamic.
American foreign policy has resulted in the deployment of U.S. military personnel to nations around the world, providing servicemen opportunities to meet and socialize with local women. Some members of the Armed Forces stationed overseas form intimate which they are deployed, making these women “military brides,” namely, foreign-born women who marry U.S. military personnel. For instance, the deployment of U.S. troops in Asian countries has resulted in more than 200,000 Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, and Filipino women marrying U.S. service members and immigrating to the United States since World War II. On arrival in this country, military brides become immigrants and are subject to U.S. immigration laws, which generally give, with few exceptions, a spouse (or parent) control over the immigration status of their dependents (Erez & Bach, 2003).
The servicemen tried to prevent their immigrant wives from gaining independence or leaving the marriage. Some husbands prohibited the women from looking for employment. One woman stated that the violence occurred while she was on the telephone discussing a job. Another woman noted that she could only work when her abuser was out of the house. Attempts by the women to take some actions to stop the abuse also triggered violence: “[Violence occurred] following meetings with an attorney or military officials” (Erez & Bach, 2003).
Without exception, the women interviewed reported that their husbands (or fiancé in one case) used their immigration status as a weapon against them. The abuse tactics included threats to report them to immigration authorities, to inform the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) about presumed law violations, to take away the children, or to deport the women (Erez & Bach, 2003).
Without any close family or friends nearby, the women did not have any semblance of the social and cultural support networks that are available to other military wives. The immigrant women could not travel home, nor could they call or communicate with relatives or friends. They were not familiar with the civilian community around them and did not have the benefit of an immigrant community to turn to for support or advice. Without the presence of family, friends, or community, the isolation and powerlessness intensified (Raj & Silverman, 2002).
Lack of language skills increases immigrant women’s isolation, precludes access to information, and further limits their employment prospects. In responding to domestic violence in the military, special attention should be paid to women whose circumstances involve multiple vulnerabilities, such as military brides. Marital ties of immigrant women to abusive men combine military and immigration-related abuse and dependency, whether real or perceived. The study demonstrates that immigration status can become an additional weapon in the arsenal of abusive military partners. As immigrant women are often not aware of or informed about legal protections and available services, 10 immigration-related abuses can become an effective tool of control and domination. In light of the large number of intimate partnerships formed between American military personnel stationed abroad and foreign-born women, the abuse potential inherent in such relationships warrants special attention by the military in its efforts to address domestic violence (Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence, 2002).
It is important to remind all who work with battered women and immigrant communities that we must do what is necessary to improve the lives of battered immigrant women and their children. Members of immigrant communities, battered women’s advocates, researchers, policy makers, and most importantly, battered immigrant women must collaborate in designing these efforts.
Defense Department’s Family Advocacy Program
The Department of Defense created a Family Advocacy Program (FAP), providing victims with resources that would help get to safety and back on their feet. The program is available on each military base, and consists of coordinated efforts designed to prevent, identify, report and treat all aspects of child abuse and neglect, and domestic abuse. Each base also has a victim’s advocate who work with the unit’s FAP (DOD, 2004).
Licensed counselors, psychologists and social workers make up the military victim advocate. They are knowledgeable about the process military personnel and their families can take to address domestic violence. They also have available a list of resources, therapists, and shelters that will assist victims and their families. Advocates and consultants work with the victim, advising the individual of available options (DOD, 2004).
Commanding officers are ultimately responsible for maintaining good order and discipline among military personnel. Although all the Military Services provide training to assist commanding officers in understanding their roles and responsibilities related to command, the curricula and duration vary by Service. Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 6400.1 mandates that the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) office notify a service member’s commanding officer when an act of abuse has allegedly occurred. The directive mandates the education and training of key personnel on policy and effective measures to alleviate problems associated with child and spouse abuse. The directive, however, does not define key personnel (Klimp & Tucker, 2001).
The services have implemented this policy in varying ways, to include everything from individual briefings with commanding officers once they have assumed command positions on an installation to a group training format. The Army provides specific instructions on briefing commanding officers via Army Regulation 608-18, the Army FAP. The Navy’s guidance is outlines on OPNAVINST 1752.2A, FAP, noting that commanding officers shall ensure that the command is trained on the identification and prevention of family violence, reporting requirements, and command, community, and FAP response awareness as regular professional development training (Klimp & Tucker, 2001).
The Air Force provides guidance in Air Force Instruction 40-301, FAP and the Marine Corps provides guidance for commanding officer training in MCOP 1752.3B, Marine Corps FAP Standing Operation. Unit commanders at installations with a family service center should obtain a FAP brief from the FAP manager within 45 days of assuming command (Klimp & Tucker, 2001).
The Department of Defense does not mandate domestic violence training specifically for military commanding officers. However, the DOD advises the Services to provide education and training for key personnel. Installations vary in their interpretations of the directive, and, as a result, some programs have more depth than others. The military’s approach to prevent, identify and intervene with domestic violence relies heavily on FAP. Given they operate under the guidance of qualified mental health professionals they are readily available to assist those military personnel and their families with their needs.
Domestic violence includes but not limited to the willful intimidation, physical assault and battery against an intimate partner or child. It also includes emotionally abusive and controlling behavior that establishes a pattern of dominance and control (NCADV, 2005). Even though domestic violence is never acceptable, mental health professionals know firsthand how the kind of intense stress experienced by military members often leads to abusive behaviors.
In the 2008 New York Times article “When Strains on Military Families Turn Deadly,” the authors state that studies illustrate the relationship between combat experience, trauma, and domestic violence. The article cited a 2006 study which focused on veterans at a Veterans Affairs medical center who sought marital counseling between 1997 and 2003. They found that those with PTSD were significantly more likely to perpetrate violence toward their partner. Studies like these, and reports by those who work with military personnel and their families, have many mental health practitioners, military leaders, and policymakers concerned, and determined to find solutions for countless victims, before it’s too late. The NYT article mentioned several instances where mental health problems associated with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars led to devastating, deadly homicides, with a service member killing his spouse, or child, and sometimes turning the gun on himself afterwards (Alvarez & Sontiag, 2008).
Future research is needed that explores family violence in all branches of the military. Studies should also focus on the simultaneous occurrence of child maltreatment and spouse abuse in military families. The civilian and military communities are urged to work toward using common definitions and practices to facilitate comparison of rates among the populations. It is important to further examine service availability and utilization to determine the impact on family violence.
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Part II: A Reflection Piece
“The Family Justice Center”
The Family Justice Center (FJC) is just that, a multi-agency service center for victims of family violence and their children. FJC is comprised of multiple community partners. With my legal background interning with the legal network was the best fit. My role consisted of screening domestic violence (DV) victims, assisting in the process of obtaining a temporary restraining order (TRO) and providing court support. As a certified paralegal and currently studying forensic psychology I am finding it somewhat difficult to overstep my boundaries in performing dual roles. The most challenging policy to adhere is the qualifications for obtaining a TRO. It is difficult to determine what qualification constitutes someone as being qualified for a TRO. Does a victim have to get beaten before applying for a TRO? At what point do we justify what qualifies? One of the laws that we do follow is the Dr. Jackie Campbell’s Danger Assessment. The Danger Assessment (DA) was originally developed by Co-Investigator Campbell with consultation and content validity support from battered women, shelter workers, law enforcement officials, and other clinical experts on battering. As every multi-disciplinary team is unique, it is important to be aware of strategies to address challenges related to working in multi-disciplinary teams. Whether it is defining roles, setting boundaries, or ensuring all team members can contribute equally, strategies like these can help multi-disciplinary teams address challenges they often encounter.
There are many forensic psychology settings in which forensic psychology professionals may work. Forensic psychology professionals may work with offenders in the courts, in prisons, in halfway houses, or in community settings. Forensic psychology professionals may also work with crime victims in settings such as domestic violence shelters. There are many reasons why I chose the forensic psychology setting I did for my field experience.
The Family Justice Center
The Family Justice Center (FJC) focuses on creating a network nationally and internationally minimizing family violence. The center also provides, training, consultation and host conferences. The FJC is comprised of multiple professionals and services such as a military liaison, mental health services, a law enforcement department, and a legal department.
The FJC is just that, a multi-agency service center for victims of family violence and their children. This center offers children with close working relationships, shared training and technical assistance, collaborative learning processes, and coordinated funding assistance (FJC, 2009).
The FJC legal network’s mission statement is to “provide convenient and free legal services to victims of domestic violence” (FJC, 2009). FJC goes above and beyond their mission statement. They provide additional resources and center’s their attention only on the individual client. They provide a child care center for clients with children, a waiting room filled with drinks and snacks is provided as well as small therapy rooms equipped with comfortable sofas. The therapy room is where assessments are conducted for privacy purposes.
Roles and Responsibilities
FJC is comprised of multiple community partners. With my legal background interning with the legal network was the best fit. My role consisted of screening domestic violence (DV) victims, assisting in the process of obtaining a temporary restraining order (TRO) and providing court support at court hearings. Once the screening is conducted, I consult with my supervising attorney to determine if the client has qualifying elements to proceed with a TRO.
To qualify for a TRO through FJC, a client must have one of the following relationships to the person they want restrained:
Spouse or former spouse
Person with whom you share(d) a living space
Have or had a dating/engagement relationship
Parents of a child
Relative to the second degree (grandparents, but not cousins)
The person they wish to have restrained must ALSO have committed one of these acts:
Recent physical violence
Recent threats of physical violence
Recent sexual assault or molestation
Verbal abuse (only when very severe) (FJC, 2009).
The FJC takes every precaution to follow all ethical codes set upon all professionals within the organization. As I mentioned before the FJC is comprised of various professionals such as detectives, counselors/psychologists and attorneys. Each professional has its own ethical codes to follow.
The legal department follows same ethical codes related to confidentiality and release of information (APA, 2010: Ethical Standard Code 4; AP-LS, 2008: Specialty Guideline 10). Each client is required to go through two screenings before they move forward with the legal department. A psychologist screens them and if there are visible injuries, the client is seen by a forensic medical examiner. At this time, a release authorization form of the photos is signed by client. This gives the organization permission to use the photos as evidence for court hearings. Each client is required to sign a confidentiality agreement form prior to meeting with the legal department.
As stated above the organization is also comprised of police officers and detectives. Police officers and detectives have their own ethical codes to follow. At times a client would arrive and would also like to file a police report. At the moment the client is allowed to file a report. At no time can the psychologist or attorney be present during this time. If a third party was present during this time, the third party is entitled to testify in court as a witness for the criminal case. It can get pretty complicated. I ran into this problem when assisting with the client that was a detective.
As a certified paralegal and currently studying forensic psychology I found it somewhat difficult not to overstep my boundaries in performing dual roles (APA, 2010: Ethical Standard Code 3; AP-LS, 2008: Specialty Guidelines 6). Part of my responsibility prior to assisting with the TRO I have to screen them to determine if they have enough evidence to move forward with a TRO. Sometimes I find myself steering towards a psychological assessment only to remember that I’m screening for legal purposes.