National Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Military launches domestic violence awareness campaign

The Defense Department is observing National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October by reminding the military community about resources and programs to help in preventing or stopping domestic violence.

Already this month, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Army Community Service has been promoting awareness through the Purple Ribbon Campaign (the purple ribbon is a national symbol for domestic violence awareness) and the national Silent Witness Campaign.

“Silent witnesses” are life-sized silhouettes of men, women and children that have been domestic abuse victims; the cut-outs are displayed, along with the victim’s stories and statistics about domestic violence, during the month of October. In USAG Stuttgart, these silent witnesses have been seen — along with representatives from ACS to answer questions — at the Panzer Main Exchange, Panzer Dining Facility and Patch Dining Facility.

Upcoming events for the month include self-defense classes for adults (ages 18 and up) in the Patch Fitness Center. On Oct. 27, a Hapkido-style class will be taught at 6 p.m. and on Oct. 28 a Krav Magra-style class will be taught at 7:30 p.m.

The classes are physical self-defense classes, combined with assertive communication training and other prevention techniques, according to Mariana Graupmann, USAG Stuttgart Victim Advocate Coordinator.

President Barack Obama issued a National Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation Oct. 1, emphasizing the U.S. government’s commitment to reducing its prevalence, supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice.

“Ending domestic violence requires a collaborative effort involving every part of society,” he wrote. “This month — and throughout the year — let each of us resolve to be vigilant in recognizing and combating domestic violence in our communities, and let us build a culture of safety and support for all those affected.”

Domestic violence is a national problem that cuts across socioeconomic, age, gender, ethnic, racial and cultural lines. National statistics reveal that it affects more than four million people a year, with almost 17,000 of them murdered by an intimate partner and an estimated 2,000 children dying at the hands of a caregiver.

The FBI reports that people are more likely to be assaulted in their own homes by someone they know and trust than on the street by a stranger. Typically, the injuries are more devastating.

But domestic violence isn’t always physical, officials emphasized. It can be more subtle: emotional, psychological or economic. Regardless of its form, it hurts individuals, ruins families and weakens communities.

The military faces the same challenges as society at large, particularly in light of the high operational tempo and the strain it puts on service members as well as their families. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates acknowledged these stresses during a lecture at Duke University Sept. 29.

“As a result of the multiple deployments and hardships associated with Afghanistan and Iraq, large swaths of the military — especially our ground combat forces and their families – are under extraordinary stress,” Gates said.

This comes with consequences, the secretary said, including “more anxiety and disruption inflicted on children, increased domestic strife and a corresponding rising divorce rate — which in the case of Army enlisted has nearly doubled since the wars began — and, most tragically, a growing number of suicides.”

The Defense Department has added muscle to its programs addressing all these issues, including domestic violence. This month, it’s stepping up its outreach to remind the military community about programs in place to prevent domestic violence and to ensure people know where to turn if they experience or witness it.

Installation family support centers offer a wide variety of programs and classes for military members and their families, and Military OneSource and Military Homefront provide online access to information and resources, officials noted.

In addition, the family advocacy program is responsible for addressing violence in military families through prevention, early identification, intervention, victim support and treatment for abusers. The program’s staff members work with commanders, military law enforcement personnel, medical staff and family center staffers and chaplains, as well as civilian agencies, to provide a coordinated response to domestic abuse.

To protect those who might otherwise not file a report, the family advocacy program allows people to submit a “restricted report,” officials explained, to report domestic abuse by a service member without initiating law enforcement, or command notification or investigation.

Editor’s Note: Brittany Carlson, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office, contributed to this story.

Help prevent, end domestic violence

• Teach young people that violence is not acceptable.

• Promote general domestic violence awareness by talking to your friends and family about this issue.

• Offer support and understanding — not judgment — to a friend or family member that you may be concerned about.

• Support your friends and family by informing them of resources that can help them if they are experiencing relationship problems.

• Become active in domestic violence prevention activities on your installation or in your local community.

• Report to law enforcement or your local family advocacy program if you suspect abuse.

• To contact the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Victim Advocate Coordinator, Mariana Graupmann, call 431-3342/civ. 07031-15-3342.