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Domestic violence awareness campaign launched

WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials are observing National Domestic Violence Awareness Month by reminding the military community about resources and programs to help in preventing or stopping domestic violence.

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 4 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 servicemembers as well as their families. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates acknowledged these stresses during a recent lecture at Duke University.

“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.”

DoD officials have added muscle to their programs addressing all these issues, including domestic violence. This month, they’re stepping up their outreach to remind the military community about programs in place to prevent domestic violence and to ensure people know what where to turn if they experience or witness it.

Installation family support centers offer a wide variety of programs and classes for servicemembers 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 servicemember without initiating a law enforcement or command notification or investigation.

Officials call information the most important tool in stopping domestic violence before it begin, and emphasize that everyone can play a part in preventing or ending it.

They recommend these steps:

• 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