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FAP helps Airmen prevent domestic violence

  • Published
  • By By Merrie Schilter-Lowe
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

He denies her access to their checking and savings account and gives her only a small allowance for groceries. 

She installed a GPS tracker on his car and checks the mileage each day to make sure he only drove to and from work.

He slammed her head into a wall, but she doesn’t blame him.  She blames herself for not moving faster when he asked for a glass.  

Each of these scenarios fit the description of domestic violence, which includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect, according to the Family Advocacy Program office at Travis Air Force Base, California. 

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  The campaign evolved from the "Day of Unity" held in October 1981 to connect advocates across the nation working to end violence against women and their children.

Unfortunately, domestic violence is still a big problem in society and the military.

“The reason there is a Family Advocacy Program is to reduce the number of incidences of domestic violence,” said Kristin Criner, FAP outreach manager and a licensed social worker at the David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis.

The Department of Defense created FAP to develop, implement and evaluate programs and policies to prevent and treat domestic violence and child abuse among active-duty members and their intimate partners and children, according to Brian Fortier, FAP officer and a licensed social worker at DGMC.  

FAP personnel also collect, maintain, analyze and report data on domestic abuse and child maltreatment.

Domestic violence, also known as family maltreatment, will affect one in four women and one in seven men during their lifetime, according to the Domestic Violence Hotline organization.

Last year, the Air Force reported 7,219 cases of family maltreatment, including 84 cases at Travis, according to Fortier.  Air Force-wide, rates were slightly lower the previous year and Travis rates were slightly lower – 7,133 cases.  

Once considered one of the most underreported crimes, domestic violence not only affects the couple involved but also the family, community and the Air Force mission, according to Criner. 

 “Domestic violence also has a large impact on children,” said Criner. “Statistics show that children who witness domestic violence in the home not only are emotionally impacted, they are twice as likely to end up in an abusive relationship as adults.”

In 2014, DOD reported 7,676 cases of child abuse or neglect.  Thirty of those cases resulted in deaths, including 18 children who were less than 1 year old. 

FAP gets involved in child abuse cases when the victim is under age 18 or suffers from a physical or mental incapacity and in the legal care of a service member or military family.

FAP also intervenes in alleged cases of abuse or neglect at DOD child care centers, schools and youth programs on base.

“There is no one root cause of domestic violence in the military, but there are a number stressors that contribute to it,” said Criner. 

Stressors include financial problems, deployments, drugs and alcohol, job dissatisfaction, poor parenting skills and lack of relationship skills.

To help counteract some of the issues, FAP offers counseling, classes and workshops such as Boot Camp for New Dads where veteran fathers teach fathers-to-be about feeding and changing a baby, child safety and changes to expect in their pregnant partner.  

FAP offers anger and stress management classes, parenting classes and relationship courses that help couples maintain strong and healthy marriages.

Additionally, FAP provides short-term therapy for people who think they may be at risk for family maltreatment.  Since Family Strength-Base Therapy – also known as FAST – is preventive in nature, members’ medical records are not documented and only limited notes are added when a member is in the Personal Reliability Program or on flying status.

FAP also provides services to adult victims, including medical and legal assistance as well as safety planning to protect victims, their children and pets before, during and after they leave the home and the abuser. 

Victim advocates provide 24/7 emotional support, help victims find shelter and child care, intervene with civilian agencies, such as social services and accompany victims to appointments and court sessions. 

Family advocacy works with both offenders and victims to help them get through the effects of violence and change destructive behavior patterns. 

Although the military offers two reporting options, many victims of domestic violence do not want to talk about the abuse. 

“This is a sensitive subject,” said Criner.  “Most of the time, people do not disclose or tell their story.  At family advocacy, we encourage victims to report abuse.”

Victims unsure if they want their case investigated can make a restricted report by calling FAP, mental health or a chaplain.  These options allow victims to receive counseling, medical care and victim advocate support without automatically triggering an investigation.

“This option is not available in cases of child abuse or when there’s imminent danger to the victim or others,” said Criner. 

Victims who want an investigation can file an unrestricted report which gets law enforcement and the member’s chain of command involved.  Although the military has no control over civilian offenders, commanders can bar them from base and civilian courts can issue a “no contact” order that is enforced on base.    

 “Although people generally associate domestic violence with married couples and people currently in a relationship, intimate partner violence extends to people who are divorced, dating, have children together and (adults) who have sleepovers,” said Criner. 

IPV is a serious and preventable public health problem affecting millions of Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

More than 37 percent of women and nearly 31 percent of men in the United States will experience IPV by a current or former intimate partner in their lifetime. 

Like domestic violence, IPV includes physical and sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression, such as name-calling and limiting access to transportation, money and friends.

IPV can be prevented by promoting healthy behaviors in relationships, such as communication and problem-solving skills, according to the CDC.

Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence or IPV should call family advocacy, security forces or local police.  Victims also can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799- SAFE (7233) or Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

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