Murder and Mayhem hitched a ride with some Military personnel and Contractors returning home to the US from Afghanistan and Iraq only to land right smack into families, homes, and communities on domestic soil.
Not only is Domestic Violence (DV) itself a major problem in families and communities, it is in fact, a major public health issue that is at epidemic proportions and is costing Billions of dollars and numerous lives. Currently, so is the intersection of DV with returning military personnel and contracting affiliates.
A critical factor in both areas (DV and DV in Military families) is the issue of Mental Health that seems to be wedded to both areas... We have to talk about this!
I recently conducted a brief search on DV and the Military to see what was out there. I found multiple documents on Task Forces established, Joint Meetings conducted and groups who gathered and publications prepared that outline policies, recommendations, practice and collaborations between civilian domestic abuse victim groups and military personnel. Obviously people know this is a problem. What is confusing (to me anyway) is why this information was not widely shared or a push for dissemination of this information has not yet filtered down to front-line advocates, police and criminal justice personnel in cities who are daily faced with the carnage and aftermath of domestic violence homicides or near fatal homicides involving military or affiliate personnel.
From my view, too few of us in the "field" of domestic violence are knowledgeable or equipped to deal with this intersection of DV and Military and Affiliate Personnel which is different from how we handle DV incidents and situations advocates have worked on over the past 30 plus years. This "thing" is a new "Beast" with many facets to it.
As an advocate, I know some of what I know about this issue from Debby Tucker, the Executive Director at the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence in Austin, TX. Debby served as co-chair of the U.S. Department of Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence (DTFDV). The Task Force examined responses to both offenders and victims and made recommendations for improvement of systems and collaboration with civilian groups, and reported annually to Congress. One Congressional achievement is the passage of the Armed Forces Domestic Security Act, by Representative Robin Hayes, (R-NC), who in just three months ensured full faith and credit enforcement of protection orders issued by civilian courts on military land. Where is this at now??
Bringing this issue home as I am certain other cities can do the same...a recent succession of domestic violence homicides and near fatal homicides with the majority involving military personnel brings to mind a stern warning to the "field", made by Dr. Gail Wyatt, UCLA in her keynote address at an IDVAAC Conference www.idvaac.org, a few years ago. To summarize, she said we (the field) must get prepared to respond to the greatest spike we will see in domestic violence incidents and death due to military personnel returning home. Since that time Dr. Wyatt said that, I have not able to table it to a back burner because she was adamant and deliberate in what and how she stated the concern.
Practitioners are seeing such cases now and the numbers are mounting. How can we begin to get a handle on this? There is some good information out there to educated ourselves on this issue and can use that as a base, however, each community must begin to come up with strategies collectively in work groups, CCRs, Task Forces, etc., on how to coordinate practices to deal with this issue that is destroying so many lives... Then too, there is the issue of the number of suicides by returning military, which is another issue and affirms that something is really not working.
More to come!