Military domestic violence victims and DOD officials testified to lawmakers late last week to address military domestic violence, and emphasized that community coordination and outreach are key due to the large number of military families who do not live in military housing, a DOD feature article reported.
Domestic violence victims and officials appeared before the House Armed Services Committee’s Military Personnel Subcommittee to testify on domestic violence in the military and emphasized that the issue is a priority and extends beyond installation gates.
“We remain committed to the safety and welfare of our service members and their families and can never forget that our families, unfortunately, are not immune from the serious national public health issue that is domestic abuse,” testified Ann Thomas Johnston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.
Johnston testified to the panel the military does have a comprehensive domestic violence prevention and response approach, but also recognized its limitations within the DOD system.
The department is making progress in efforts to address and prevent domestic abuse within the military community, but there is still much work to be done, Johnston testified.
“However, we recognize that domestic abuse presents human factor challenges that require continual training, education and improvement in the effectiveness and responsiveness of our system,” she said. “We cannot do it alone.”
Kenneth Noyes, associate director of DOD’s Family Advocacy Program, testified that DOD’s domestic violence program does provide social services aimed at protecting families. He said the program coordinates with commands, law enforcement, school systems and the military court system to hold abusers accountable for spousal and child abuse, neglect and other violent or harmful acts.
Such coordination and outreach are vital because about 70% of families do not live on military installations, he said.
Noyes said one of the biggest challenges is getting military domestic violence victims to seek help because of the social stigma associated with suffering injury and abuse at home.
Lawmakers also heard from a panel of military domestic abuse victims.
Johnston thanked them for their testimony and acknowledged that the military has not been immune from the public health issue, and she pledged DOD’s support.
“Each of you has taken a traumatic, heartbreaking event in your life and turned it into a call to action,” she said. “We hear you, and we will continue to improve our programs and services. You and all other victims of violence deserve nothing less.”
Video still image provided by DOD