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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month  (U.S. Air Force graphic by Naoko Shimoji)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (U.S. Air Force graphic by Naoko Shimoji)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Did you know that one in four American women and one in seven men aged 18 and older have survived severe physical violence by an intimate partner? 

Unfortunately, military members and their families are not left untouched by domestic violence. In 2014, the Eglin Family Advocacy Program received 131 adult maltreatment referrals. Of those, 64 cases met criteria suggesting clinical intervention.

Although some might consider domestic violence a "private issue," it is something of which we all need awareness. Knowing the warning signs and what to do when we see them allows us to help others because the effects of domestic violence are not limited to the home and family - they can impact job performance, co-workers and ultimately the unit mission.

Here are a few helpful tips for being a more prepared wingman:

  • Know the signs. If you notice someone withdrawing from outside activities, family and friends; or other changes in the attendance at work, school or social events - show concern. Their partner might be restricting access to their resources and support systems.  They may have unexplained injuries, such as bruising or cuts. Take notice when you observe someone's partner putting them down, undermining them or telling them what to do - even if you feel it may be in a joking or sarcastic manner.  Think about how many times in a day someone around you is contacted, accompanied or followed by her/his partner. Is it a new, exciting relationship or an unhealthy obsession?

  • Document. Record what you have observed. Note the place, day, time and what signs you have observed. These observations can not only help establish a pattern of abuse, but they can also help the survivor visualize the severity of the abuse- something that's not always easy to see when they are in the middle of a bad situation.

  • Show your concern and offer support information. If you think someone you know is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, you can urge them to contact the Eglin Family Advocacy Program and speak with the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate at 883-8616 or call a chaplain at 882-2111. These contacts can maintain confidentiality and offer support without necessarily initiating legal or military action. People needing help can also talk with an advocate 24 hours a day by phoning the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE, the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-500-1119, or more locally, the Shelter House hotline at 800-44-ABUSE. Simply say, "I'm afraid for your safety. Here's a number to call."

  • Make sure the person understands the military's options for reporting domestic abuse. Survivors can, except in certain circumstances, get assistance from a Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate and receive medical care without it automatically resulting in an abuse investigation or notification to the service member's command. Contact 883-8616 and ask to speak with the DAVA for more information about a survivor's rights and reporting options.

  • Call 911 if the person is in immediate danger of assault or physical injury.

  • Help the survivor who chooses to stay in her/his relationship. The choice to stay or leave remains with the survivor, but addressing the problem can be a shared effort. Remind the survivor that abusers rarely stop without help, regardless of promises...but be sure the survivor knows that your support remains available regardless of how they handle the situation. You may wonder why the survivor stays in an abusive relationship. There could be many reasons - few of which are simple. It can be because of religious beliefs, worries about breaking up the family unit, family and social pressure, financial dependency or fear that the abuse will increase if they attempt to leave. Often, a survivor returns to the abuser several times before leaving for good. Your continued help, support and encouragement are vital.

  • Be there for the person. A survivor of domestic abuse may need you to make phone calls, go with them to the police or help with child care as they work out a safety plan. Although you can't do it all, ask and do what you can to help.
For more information on domestic violence or guidance on available resources, contact the Eglin Family Advocacy Program at 883-8616 or visit www.militaryonesource.com.