Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Army Wives" Includes Domestic Violence Plot

Army Wives is a Lifetime original series that follows the lives of four army wives, one army husband, and their families. Sunday's episode tackled a highly charged subject: domestic violence in the military.

Domestic violence happens so much in the military that the Department of Defense has made it an item of specific concern. The majority of victims of domestic violence in military families are the civilian wives of active duty personnel. It can be very difficult for the victims in these cases to get help because of the separate legal systems which govern the actions of soldiers. has a breakdown of the basics of military law, the Depart of Defense Family Advocacy Program, confidentiality, removal of guns, and finding help. They also have information on obtaining a military protective (restraining) order.

If the abuser is a military member, domestic violence situations are handled on two separate tracks: the military justice system, and the Family Advocacy system.

It's important to realize that these are two separate systems, not connected. Family advocacy is an identification, intervention, and treatment program -- not a punishment system. It's entirely possible that the Family Advocacy Committee will return a finding of "substantiated abuse," but there will be insufficient legally admissible evidence to allow punishment under the provisions of military justice.

Regulations require military and DOD officials to report any suspicion of family violence to Family Advocacy, no matter how small. This includes commanders, first sergeants, supervisors, medical personnel, teachers, and military police. If child abuse is involved, regulations require that local child protection agencies be notified, and participate in the process.

After an investigation, the case is presented to a multidisciplinary case review committee with representatives from the Family Advocacy Program, law enforcement, staff judge advocate, medical staff and chaplain. The committee decides whether the evidence indicates abuse occurred, and arrives at one of the following findings:

Substantiated. A case that has been investigated and the preponderance of available information indicates that abuse has occurred. This means that the information that supports the occurrence of abuse is of greater weight or more convincing than the information that indicates that abuse did not occur.

Suspected. A case determination is pending further investigation. Duration for a case to be "suspected" and under investigation should not exceed 12 weeks.

Unsubstantiated. An alleged case that has been investigated and the available information is insufficient to support the claim that child abuse and/or neglect or spouse abuse did occur. The family needs no family advocacy services.

Based on the committee's recommendations, the commander decides what action to take regarding the abuser., The commander determines whether to order the individual into treatment, and/or to seek to impose disciplinary procedures under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The commander may also seek to obtain the discharge of the service member from the military.

Victims often hesitate to report abuse because they fear the impact it will have on their spouse's career. A recent DOD study found that service members reported for abuse are 23 percent more likely to be separated from the service than nonabusers and somewhat more likely to have other than honorable discharges. The majority who remain in the military are more likely to be promoted more slowly than nonabusers.

Many military spouses don't know that federal law gives financial protection to the spouse if the member is discharged for an offense which "involves abuse of the then-current spouse or a dependent child." It doesn't matter if the discharge is a punitive discharge imposed by a court-martial, or an administrative discharge initiated by the commander.
If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse at the hands of a member of the military, please visit to learn about your rights and where you can go for help.

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