Prevalence of Domestic Violence in the Military


The US military has a sizeable population amounting to about 3.4 million. This is a large population whose more than a third consists of married members. In this population, there exist several victims who have survived domestic violence and others who have inflicted this violence on their partners. This population consists of people who are economically dependent on the military to survive through the jobs offered to them, accommodation, healthcare services, and security.

When abuse occurs, and victims have to leave their partners, economic strain is experienced. Therefore, their survival is at risk especially when children are involved. This adds to the events common in the military including assignments out in the field which take place at least once every three years and the reunion after these assignments. It is a challenge to families experiencing these situations with mistrust and stress being the key issues of concern. The unfamiliarity of the locations is also an issue because victims may not know where to get support. It has been noted that reporting of domestic violence incidences has increased in the military.

However, it cannot be established whether these incidences have decreased or not because their reporting was not done before (Wilson, 2005). This paper discusses domestic violence, as deviant behavior that has often been wrongly justified. This seeks to establish why and how this deviant behavior is prevalent in this institution. It brings out the situational choice theory in the way abusers blame their working conditions and environment to justify their actions. The benefits of transition in cases where domestic violence abusers reach a turning point and adopt a life free of crime are also outlined in this paper.

Forms of Domestic abuse common in the military

The military plays the role of maintaining security at the national level as well as safety to the nationals. Ironically, the exact people who offer security and safety can be associated with violating this peace. However, such instances may occur due to the situations of their work which is immensely challenging and emotionally draining. The military engages in violence and civilians, who in this case are the wives and children within the military. It also occurs between the military persons who are married or single persons who relate intimately. These forms of violence are categorized according to the severity of three main classes.

This includes extreme physical abuse, standard physical abuse, and mild one. However, when compared to the civilian community, what is termed as mild in the Department of Defense (DoD) is a serious offense in the civil society (Wilson, 2005). This difference in categorization has led to these abuses advancing into serious crimes that would have otherwise been rectified in a reasonable time. The punishment to be administered depends on the commander’s judgment. This may see many of the instances going unreported or not receiving the punishment that is proportional to the severity of the abuse committed.

Domestic abuse is deviant behavior, which progresses considerably if no action is taken. Verbal abuse is the first stage of any form of abuse which is often assumed as mild and harmless. This form of abuse is psychological and is mostly exhibited through threats of attack or the use of offensive language meant to annoy the other party. Another one is a physical attack which may lead to harm. This is often the wake of victims on the risk of their safety. It is at this point that cases are reported, and caution is taken. Children cannot be isolated in this discussion. This is because they also experience violence directly or indirectly.

This is exhibited through physical harm, deprivation of the child’s basic needs, sexual abuse, and emotional torture subjected to the child. Severe cases of abuse may even change a child’s perspective about the family institution (Yonie, 2009).

The most serious form of abuse is murder. This form of abuse is associated with pain and suffering in children. In this case, some children end up being orphaned in some instances. Cases of officers who have murdered their partners and committed suicide are becoming increasingly common among the military society. This form of abuse is common among the military community mostly because of possession of firearms.

Nonetheless, this is categorized under environmental and working conditions. Such cases are reported to occur mostly when officers have been deployed to other places, and on returning, they find it hard to adjust to the family. Finance is also a significant challenge to families that are growing and domestic violence is experienced. This is especially when soldiers do not honor the responsibility of providing financial support to their families. Failure to provide is an abuse in itself because it deprives the family of the basic needs which violets human rights. Other forms of domestic violence include assaults, rape, stalking, and absconding of family responsibilities (Yonie, 2009).

Domestic violence in the military as compared to the civilian community

The number of reported cases of domestic violence has been increasing over the last decades with a majority of these cases coming from the military community. In 2010, a rate of 11.2% in spouse abuse was recorded in the US military as compared to 9.4 % in 2008. It was also reported that there were sixteen deaths associated with domestic violence. Out of the sixteen, 81% were committed by a member of the military community. Child abuse was also increased with 72% recorded as cases of neglect to children. This implies that more cases are reported and that this form of abuse is no longer kept a secret as before (Montgomery 2011).

Factors contributing to domestic violence in the military

The US military has the highest number of domestic violence cases when compared to other military countries. This has been associated with the environment in the military camps and the nature of assignments given to the soldiers. These assignments often call for frequent relocations and staying away from family frequently. Balancing this nature of work and family life is a bit difficult. In this case, misunderstandings and arguments are bound to occur if adequate support is not granted (Everson and Figley, 2010).

For the military, domestic violence is regarded as mild abuse unlike the civilians where it is a serious dangerous offense; this has contributed to the increase in the number of cases reported. When these cases are reported, the commander has to weigh the options at his disposal. The commander has to decide on whether to recommend treatment, in cases of depression, or come up with disciplinary action. These procedures may be biased towards the officer and may not be treated with the right weight they deserve. Therefore, they end up recurring, or worse still, the abused may be exposed to extreme attacks including murder (Erwin, 2007).

It is also speculated that whenever soldiers go out on assignments for long periods with some even going up to eight months the cases of abuse reported an increase. This is attributed to the increased stress levels and the trauma that they experience in war (Castro, Adler & Britt, 2006).

The age group that has the most common causes of domestic violence among civilians is the young people who have just married. This happens to be the majority of the population in the military who are between seventeen and thirty-four years which explains why the cases are common among them. These people have just started working, and thus in most cases, they have not yet achieved financial stability. It consists of individuals who are struggling economically, and this is a principal cause of domestic arguments that strain family relationships. The members are held accountable for the actions of their wives and children (Bearls, 2010).

The nature of the military operations is a challenge towards fighting this abuse. This is because even physicians do not have a right to confide in information about their patients. This makes the victims of abuse shy away from revealing information. This is because giving out such information may lead to termination from duty for the abusers which may further strain the relationship. Even in instances where information is availed, records are not properly kept. Also, the offenders’ prosecution is not performed, and this is linked with the military’s fear of losing a soldier. This is because of the cost incurred during recruiting, training, and retaining. With such an attitude, protection of women in the military camps from domestic violence is futile with no support from the military authorities (Castro, Adler & Britt, 2006).

A family unit is a formal institution with which members have strong bonds including blood ties and intimacy. Interfering with such ties and bonds comes with consequences that may forever influence the rest of their entire lives. This violence is not always physical. This is because other forms of abuse include emotional instability, financial strain, and personal self-esteem. This has an impact on the entire way of life. When an assault is from a known and trusted person, the effects are more devastating than when committed by a stranger. In the military, various families have been ruined, children traumatized by the events, and the victims hurt (Erwin, 2007).

Members of the military are more prone to domestic abuse because most of these members are segregated from their original families. Some officers come from backgrounds that have experienced domestic abuse. Such factors are common in the civilian society as well, but unlike the military, they may not cause deviance by themselves as in the case of the military (Everson, 2010).

According to New York Times, most of the domestic abuse cases are reported soon after soldiers report back from assignments, and this is attributed to stress levels they experience during the war. These cases if not attended to with immediate effect may lead to more brutal crimes. In the case of Erin Edwards, she assumed that when her husband William Edwards assaulted her a few months after they had come from different assignments that would be the last time.

However, little did she know that this whole process would cost her life. Her husband started stalking her and followed her to the news station that she had transferred to and attacked her to death while the son was watching. From Erin’s experience, it can be concluded that domestic abuse in the military has also been exaggerated because officials have failed to monitor abusers who are likely to commit these offenses in the future.

Separating offenders from their victims may not be as effective as organizing reconciliation and counseling. From this experience, Williams was from his family, which is a form of stigmatization by the rest of the community. This subsequently prompted him to murder his wife to counter the low self-esteem inflicted by the perception from the rest of the community. (Alvarez & Sontag 2008). Separation only works to increase crime as opposed to the view that it decreases the opportunity to commit a crime. This is explained by Tannenbaum’s, 1938 labeling and escalation behavior theory.

In cases where abuse is reported, some staff have lost their jobs leaving them with no income source, this has made the military authorities liberal in the kind of punishment administered because they also consider it a complete loss in terms of resources and finance spent on recruiting and training of these staffs. This liberal punishment has indirectly encouraged the abusers to be notorious for committing these crimes because after all, they may not get a stern disciplinary measure taken against them. The fact dismissing them away from the institution is not an easy occurrence gives them power over their victims because their efforts to report and get justice may prove futile if measures that perfectly stop this crime are not taken (Martin, et al., 2007).

Separation of the modes of operation between the military and the civilians when it comes to administering punishment has also been a contributing factor towards increased cases of domestic abuse in the military. This is because members of society do not contribute towards curbing this practice as one unit. If both the civilians and the military community work together by intervening and initiating preventive measures more so in cases that involve both parties, violence in the family can be improved significantly.

It is difficult for the rest of the community outside the military to assume responsibility for the crimes committed in the military because these differences make them operate as two different units while addressing a similar case. Such situations make the community assume that the militants s are more entitled to commit crimes because it is perceived that they could be above the law and can only be addressed from their distinctive perspective. (Miles 2010).

The structural inequalities between the military and the civil society make this institution produce more cases of domestic abuse than the other normal setting. For instance, the military’s category of defining the severity of abuse different from the civilian’s one, it would be advisable to modify them so that wives of the soldiers who are civilians can get similar services as their counterparts. This will help decrease the social power given to the militants over the rest of the community to get away with violence. The inclusion of unmarried couples who are unmarried but intimate is also favorable because abuse can still occur among them.

This inclusion helps in creating uniformity such that no group of individuals is placed in a more prone situation while giving the abusers an added advantage in committing abuse to helpless victims who have fewer privileges when it comes to obtaining justice. A dialogue can be established to accommodate these two parties either through the service providers or safety and protection programs. Lack of confidentiality has also contributed to increased cases since many cases have gone unreported. This encourages perpetrators to continue abusing their victims while taking advantage of the fact that they are afraid of bringing these activities to the authorities.

Establishing methods of reporting that are confidential and protective of the victims can help provide a turning point to the abusers because this helps them be cautious in case they are tempted to inflict abuse on their families. It is also beneficial when abusers are assisted without involving their commander. This is because dignity is maintained and the reconciliation process simplified (Castro, Adler & Britt, 2006).

The domestic violence approach should be reviewed to capture all forms of abuse for instance stalking is also a form of abuse and a program for this should be included, instances of murder occurred in situations where victims were followed secretly without their knowledge. Monitoring and evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the programs introduced should be done frequently to help improve the quality of services offered.

This should also recommend changes that can add value to the existing policies and procedures. Getting help in case of an attack requires an immediate response; the establishment of hotlines can help solve this issue. These hotlines should be well known to the community to ensure a fast response to emergencies. There is a need to improve the way domestic violence records are kept and maintained (Mathews, 2004).

The introduction of support activities for instance centers that provide guidance and counseling to abusers, and provide information on signs of abuse, as well as medical support, is a significant step towards curbing domestic violence in the military. These centers can also intervene in cases where abuse has been reported to provide restoration to those affected (Castro, Adler & Britt, 2006). Screening activities for women is also another way of establishing whether any form of abuse could have been experienced which is followed by advice on what should be done to avoid similar occurrences in the future (Everson and Figley, 2010).

Involving the officials such as the commandant by reporting such cases to them is a strategy towards reducing these cases. The introduction of campaigns that provide awareness on the virtues of communication and understanding the family life is also beneficial in curbing domestic violence (Erwin, 2007). These campaigns also help participants know their rights and help them come out in the light for assistance before the abuse becomes severe and renders them helpless. With such knowledge, all cases can be reported and cases minimized with alternative ways of solving domestic issues established.

Centers have been established where officers can be counseled and prepared so that the stress associated with war is not extended to the home environment. This helps them prepare emotionally and psychologically before meeting their families (Hansen, 2001). Victims of abuse also require assistance through counseling and the provision of advocates. This helps to determine the extent of injury and services required and come up with a safety strategy to help the victim be free of any further attacks (Wilson, 2005).


Domestic violence in the military can be termed as secondary deviance because these abusers acknowledge that they are wrong, and other people around them and their superiors perceive it as abuse. To justify their actions, they have blamed this behavior on the environment and working conditions. Differential social power is evident by the fact that abuse happens among the personnel who are supposed to promote peace.

They draw their social power from their respectable position in society making this deviant behavior go unnoticed. This is because the behavior is against the norm that associates them with such abuse. The level at which abuse is declared serious in the army is different from the one in the case of civilians, and this is also another form of adopting social power because it hints that they are unique and can abuse a little bit away with it.

It is, however, a clear sign that this form of deviance is willing to conform to social values by inventing ways of preventing the further practice of abuse through the training and the counseling that they participate in. This means a better and safe environment for the communities. The community is also expected to give support to military families because the repercussions of domestic violence in the military affect the whole community.


Alvarez, L. & Sontag, D. (2008). When strains on Military Family turn Deadly. The New York Times.

Castro, C. A., Adler, A.B., & Britt, T.W. (2006). Military life: The psychology of serving in peace and combat, Volume 3: The military family. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International.

Erwin, P. (2007). Understanding the military Response to domestic violence. Web.

Everson, R.B. & Figley, C.R. (2010). Families under fire: Systematic Therapy with Military Families. New York: Routledge.

Hansen, C. (2001). A considerable Service: An advocate’s Introduction to Domestic violence and the military. Web.

Miles, D. (2010). Military Launches Domestic Violence Campaign. Washington: American Forces press service.

Montgomery, N. (2011). Reports of family violence in the Military rise. Stars and stripes.

Wilson, K.J. (2005). When violence begins at home: A comprehensive guide to understanding and ending domestic abuse. Alameda: Hunter HouseInc Publishers.

Yonie, R. (2009). Intersection between slavery and the military in Haiti: Justice and peace are the right balance. S.l.: Iuniverse Inc.

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