Domestic violence, abuse – Family Advocacy is here to help

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- A young boy sat trembling in the car as he heard two gun shots ring from inside the house. His mother screamed in agony as his father rushed her back to their car. Distraught over the events that had just occurred, his mother was stunned and mortified. While watching his mother fight to get into the vehicle – “BANG” – another gun shot fired.

“It all started when I was about six-years-old. My father was a diver in the Navy and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. At first, I didn’t know anything was wrong. I was only a kid, just wanting to play, make friends and have fun,” said Airman 1st Class Jason Donovan, 352nd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron CV-22 Osprey tilt rotor maintainer. “My parents had problems, then they drifted apart. My mother began a relationship with another man behind my father’s back. Shortly after, she became pregnant with this other man’s child.”

At a very young age, Donovan didn’t realize that he was witnessing domestic violence and abuse among his parents. It happens in many forms, such as hitting, shoving, name-calling, and even just causing fear through intimidation. Domestic violence is considered a serious public health issue that goes against healthy relationships, military core values, and standards of conduct.

“Research suggests that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime,” said Karen Pinillos, 48th Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy Program outreach manager. “Unfortunately, aggressive acts of violence are not uncommon in the Air Force family. Air Force population surveys show that 13 percent of the couples report male to female aggressive acts, and 15 percent of couples report female to male aggressive acts. However, domestic violence cases are not always reported which makes it difficult to gather accurate data about this public health issue.”
Although domestic violence usually occurs between partners, children are also affected by this issue.

“I remember always being with my mom at this guy’s house while my dad was at work,” Donovan explained. “After my little brother was born, my dad started to get suspicious. The time came where I was sitting in the car with my father and he said ‘Jay, where do you and mom go all the time when I’m gone to work?’ I replied with ‘our uncle’s house,’ but my father knew that wasn’t my uncle.”

Domestic violence and abuse can have devastating consequences. Victims bare the emotional scars and abusers can eventually push the violence until they and their victims lose everything. The series of events that happened after this moment is more than any child should have to suffer.

“The next thing I remember was my dad taking us to our ‘uncle’s’ house. I stayed in the car with my brother while my mom and dad went inside,” Donovan recollected. “That’s when I heard the two gun shots. I later found out that my father had shot my brother’s real father, luckily his dad didn’t die, but he was paralyzed. The third gunshot, which I believe to be an accident, is what took my mom’s life.”

According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, more than five million children in the U.S. witness domestic violence each year.
“Sadly, children who witness domestic violence in their household might face short and long term effects. Short term effects can include emotional responses such as fear, guilt, sleep disturbances, sadness, depression, and anger,” Pinillos explained. “On the other hand, long term effects that children might encounter are emotional and psychological trauma, high risk of alcohol/drug abuse, and juvenile delinquency. Thus, parents are encouraged to think about the possible consequences abuse can have on their children, and to obtain the help they need for their families.”

Donovan’s childhood experience was just one extreme case of domestic violence. Domestic violence and abuse isn’t just physical pain, it also includes emotional and psychological abuse. Yelling and shouting is one small act that can not only effect the spouse, but the children who hear.

“Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence – a friend, relative, neighbor or coworker can be affected by this devastating issue. As a result, it is important for everyone in the community to understand domestic violence, and how they can support victims safely and in their own terms,” Pinillos clarified. “Victims of domestic violence have two reporting options: unrestricted and restricted. Unrestricted reporting is appropriate for those who want to pursue an official investigation report through the services member’s command, FAP or local law enforcement. Additionally, restricted reporting is for those individuals who do not want an official investigation but do want victim advocacy services, medical care or counseling. They should make a restricted report to the FAP, victim advocate, or a military health care provider. These two reporting options are important for victims to understand, so that they can make an informed decision when they decide to take action and start their healing journey.”

In order to help families with this public health issue, the Department of Defense has the Family Advocacy Program.

“Air Force families and individuals can benefit from the FAP prevention programs and services, training on early identification and intervention, victim support, and treatment for offenders,” Pinillos explained. “Prevention services are open to all individuals who have base access, and they include quarterly classes on couples’ communication, parenting and stress/anger management. These resources can help individuals develop strong relationship skills to meet the challenges and responsibilities military families have to face.”

The Family Advocacy Program ultimately works to prevent the abuse and violence before it happens, however if the abuse does occur, the FAP works to help better the health and welfare of the victims. After Donovan’s family was torn apart through domestic violence, his aunt and uncle stepped up to take care of him.

“I’m lucky I had my aunt and uncle there to support and care for me,” Donovan shared. “They took me into their home and raised me as their own child. I got the help I needed from them. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have that support system, so I’m glad the military offers the FAP for those who really need it.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or abuse contact the Family Advocacy Program on 226-8070, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or contact the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 07490 038170.