There are few things as cowardly or wicked as abusing or threatening a spouse. A home is supposed to be a bastion of peace and order, the very bedrock on which society is built. Thus when domestic violence becomes prevalent, we as a people must deal with it as a scourge to be combated with the utmost vigor and passion. This is no less true when it comes to the military and the laws which govern services members. As defenders of the constitution and the people of the United States, members of the armed forces must uphold the highest of moral standards both in their public positions and private affairs. Unfortunately domestic violence in the military remains a large problem.
Domestic Violence in the Military
As is the case with the civilian world, the military continues to deal with the issue of domestic violence. Unfortunately, according to the Civic Research Institute's 2001 Domestic Violence Report, rates of domestic violence among military members are estimated as being at least double that of the civilian population. For that reason it is important to understand the specific laws and Department of Defense (DOD) policies on domestic abuse in the military.
Dealing with the Problem
Dealing with domestic abuse within the military is process which has two components. Domestic abuse, according to the DOD, includes both spousal abuse and child abuse or neglect. In recent years, dealing with domestic abuse has become a top priority for the DOD, especially given the prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among returning combat veterans. PTSD and deployment related issues have been found to contribute to cases of domestic abuse in military families.
The Family Advocacy Program
The first process is handled via the Family Advocacy Program (FAP), an initiative created by the DOD to help victims of domestic abuse without having to go specifically through the judicial system of the military.
The victim is able to report abuse to the FAP at any time in either a confidential or non-confidential manner. Once a report is filed, the FAP will assign a counselor to investigate the case further. Whatever the counselor finds will be submitted to the Case Review Committee which will try to substantiate the claim of abuse and begin procedures to intervene to stop the abuse. These procedures typically involve military attorneys, chaplains, and the immediate chain of command of the suspected abuser. Recommendations will be forwarded to the suspected abuser's commander who will make the final determination on how to proceed.
The commander may elect to begin court martial procedures against the suspected abuser, have him or her undergo treatment and intervention, and or separated from the military.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice
The second process involves the law enforcement aspect of domestic abuse. If a particular incident occurs off base, it will normally be handled under a civilian jurisdiction. Still, if the abuser is in the military, command will typically be informed and take non-judicial action against the abuser. In cases when an incident of domestic violence occurs on base, military police will be dispatched to the scene and the abuser may be detained and subsequently court martialed. Service members under military jurisdiction will be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), specifically the punitive articles. Some relevant articles for domestic abuse include 128-Assault, and 134-53-Threat, communicating. There are also specific punishments for service members which may be tacked on, such as Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman.
In cases where there is imminent danger to the victim, a Military Protection Order (MPO) can be obtained from the commander, preventing the suspected or accused abuser from having any contact with the spouse and or children. This order is equivalent to the Protection Orders issued by civilian courts while cases of domestic abuse are investigated. The MPO is usually short term, designed for use before formal charges or procedures can be brought forth. It can however be renewed at the commander's discretion in order to keep protecting the victim should the investigation take longer than usual.
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