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How to Find Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse

It can be difficult to know when or how to reach out for help regarding a partner’s controlling or abusive behavior. Picking up the phone can involve some self-doubt and confusion. However, speaking to someone about problems in your relationship doesn’t require you to make any immediate or significant decisions. Discussing unhealthy behavior or abuse with a professional is just a small step toward a better tomorrow, where you feel safe and fulfilled, either in your relationship or outside of it.

There are several options for help, depending on your situation. Help is available at your installation or through Military OneSource. For domestic violence emergencies, call 911.

Reporting options

The Department of Defense is committed to ending domestic violence. To that end, the department offers different reporting options. Except in select circumstances, persons have the option of making either a restricted or unrestricted report of domestic abuse. Both options allow access to victim advocacy services, which include personal help and support.

  • The restricted reporting option does not involve command or law enforcement. You can report a situation and receive services – including victim advocacy, medical treatment, counseling and support – without affecting the service member’s career. However, you must report the incident only to certain people: a military health care provider or a Family Advocacy Program manager, domestic abuse victim advocate or clinical treatment provider. You cannot use the restricted reporting option if you are in immediate risk of serious harm, and it does not apply to child abuse cases.
  • Unrestricted reporting is appropriate for those who want to pursue an official investigation report through the command, Family Advocacy Program or local law enforcement. Making an unrestricted report provides you with: law enforcement investigation of an abuse incident; command notification and involvement to provide for safety and family support; potential administrative or criminal action against the offender; information on legal rights, and assistance in applying for transitional compensation, if applicable.

Family Advocacy Program

Your installation’s Family Advocacy Program, or FAP, provides services to protect, support, and empower victims of domestic abuse, and offer treatment for offenders as appropriate. The program offers a range of services, including:

  • Emergency services and counseling. Domestic abuse advocates assist you in finding shelter, medical care, counseling, legal services and other resources both on and off the military installation. Advocates provide valuable information and support on issues such as family services, military and civilian legal and court procedures, and other matters to help you make sound decisions for you and your family.
  • Help creating a safety plan. Counselors and advocates will help you design a safety plan, steps to take before, during and after a domestic abuse crisis. A safety plan covers things like where to go for shelter, how to find financial and emotional support, a contingency plan for child care and what to have ready to take with you if you must leave home.
  • Assistance getting a military protective order or restraining order. Depending on the severity of your situation, you may want to consider a military protective order, or MPO – issued by a military commander – or a restraining order, issued by a civilian court. Both make it illegal for your spouse to return home or enter your workplace. An MPO may order the service member to surrender his or her weapons custody card or stay away from the family home. Your military installation recognizes MPOs, while a civilian restraining order is enforceable on your installation as well as in the civilian community.
  • Counseling Services. Licensed clinical FAP staff provide individual and group counseling to help victims mitigate the effects of abuse, challenge self-blaming thoughts and make healthier choices for themselves and their children, when applicable.
  • Transitional compensation. Family members of a service member separated from the service due to a dependent abuse offense can receive temporary payments and benefits. Transitional compensation assists military family members by lessening financial hardship associated with leaving an abusive relationship.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 (click here for overseas calling options) for your local Family Advocacy Program contact information. You can also locate your installation’s Family Advocacy Program office through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Other resources

National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a free and confidential resource for those in an abusive relationship or family or friends who love and care about their health and safety. Hotline services include:

  • Crisis intervention
  • Safety planning
  • Information about domestic violence and referrals to local service providers
  • Direct connection to domestic violence resources available in the caller’s area provided by a hotline advocate, including local military Family Advocacy Programs and domestic abuse advocates
  • Assistance in more than 140 different languages.

The toll-free hotline is confidential, available 24 hours a day and can be reached from anywhere in the 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Call 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 TTY for the Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing, or visit www.thehotline.org.

Taking the first step

If you are concerned about unhealthy patterns or recognize abuse in your relationship, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Specially trained professionals are available to provide confidential assistance 24/7. Facing a problem and asking for help takes courage, but it might be the first step to a safer and more fulfilling future.

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, however, contact command, the Family Advocacy Program or law enforcement. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911.