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The Veteran Domestic Violence Issue in the US

Updated on September 13, 2018

Understanding Domestic Violence

The issue of veteran domestic violence is a growing concern for the United States, and although there are solutions, it is a complex problem fraught with stigma. In fact, combat veterans make up 21% of the domestic violence cases in America.

There is a direct link between PTSD and violence. Troops who have spent time in war-zones or have been in active combat situations build up unnaturally high levels of stress which can often turn to aggression.

Many people claim that the soldiers returned to them are not the same men that left to join the service. They behave in ways they never did previously, and it frightens and angers their partners.

Veteran psychologists argue that many veterans are like ticking time bombs just waiting to go off. Deployment and long separations can put added stress on relationships then, when veterans return home, their fear, and anxiety turns to anger, and they can quickly become violent towards someone they love. This situation occurs even when there was no domestic abuse before military service.

Military Family Culture and Family Risk Factors for Violence

The military family culture is one of extreme privacy and “handling it at home without complaint.” This unwritten and unspoken truth is what keeps this problem from being exposed as often as it should. Military wives and husbands are subtly influenced to keep things quiet and not talk about what goes on within the home.

There is also little separation between work and private life in military family situations. Often families live in secluded geographical areas or on bases where support resources are scarce or difficult to contact. Further complicating the issue is that military personnel are often close-knit like a family and they don’t want anyone making rifts or trouble even when it comes to reporting domestic abuse. The military usually protects their own which does not include partners and family members who may be victims.

Veteran Domestic Violence Facts

Domestic violence facts are alarming and should cause enough concern to promote strong directives for change.

● Veterans with PTSD are three times more likely to be aggressive and violent.

● One-third of women surveyed have been victim to “intimate partner violence.”

● One-fourth of men surveyed have been victims of “intimate partner violence.”

● Calls to domestic abuse hotlines tripled after 9/11.

● 80% of vets with PTSD have committed at least one act of domestic abuse.

What to Do to Stop Domestic Violence?

The most crucial thing victims of domestic abuse can do is reporting violence to the police. For a nationwide change to take place, everyone has to do their part and reporting the issue is step one.

Untreated PTSD is the cause of most all veteran domestic abuse, and it is treatable. Although the solution is obvious, getting military vets to seek help can be a challenge. Men are taught to be strong and handle thing without needing help. But when vets do get the help they need, the whole family benefits. Not only marriages but also lives can be saved with proper treatment.

The Warning Signs

A lot of returning veterans experience problems with sleeping, nightmares, irritability, anger, flashbacks, zoning out, substance abuse or agitation. Some will even engage in self-harm or binge eating. Pay close attention to changes in thinking and mood. If your loved one doesn’t seem to be themselves, then they may need help.

If you notice any of these things in your partner, gently suggest they get help and make sure you get help before things turn violent.

The Stigma of Reporting Abuse

One of the very reasons this problem remains unaddressed is the stigma, shame, and isolation that goes along with it. Victims feel guilty, and their partners take advantage of that blaming and manipulating to keep them quiet. Financial concerns, health insurance, and retirement benefits are also factors why many victims don’t report the abuse, fearing how to make ends meet alone.

Much like rape, victims of domestic abuse often blame themselves and believe they did or said something to cause it and they sometimes feel that they deserve it. This guilt complicates the issue and erodes the victim's self-esteem making it even harder for them to get help.

Final thoughts

The problem of veteran domestic abuse is not going away. Although domestic abuse prevention groups are busy advocating for more resources, more needs to be done to prevent this ongoing problem.

Perhaps a thorough, mandatory program of screening veterans after military service along with intense therapy to prevent PTSD from developing into violence might be one solution. Acknowledgment of the problem by the military would help too. Education programs within the military for families along with removing the stigma and the threat of ostracizing those who report abuse.

Veteran domestic abuse is a societal problem, and we all have to do our part to help victims and heal the offenders.

© 2018 Ben Hartwig

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