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If you have ever had an intimate experience with your partner that made you feel uncomfortable or afraid, or one that took place without your consent, you are not alone.
The Department of Defense cares about the safety and well-being of everyone in the military community. Read on to learn more about how the department addresses sexual assault and abuse and some of the options available to anyone seeking support.
What constitutes sexual abuse in an intimate partner relationship?
Sexual abuse is one of many harmful behaviors that involve sexual violence. These include sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact and sexual abuse by an intimate partner. In both the military and civilian communities, it is likely more common than most people realize, with victims often experiencing physical, mental and emotional health issues as a result.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these issues can include drug misuse, heart disease and depression. Victims may also suffer economic losses related to an inability to work.
In a relationship, sexual abuse can include a range of harmful behaviors. These may take the form of pressure being put on one partner to engage in sexual acts that make that partner feel afraid, unsafe or uncomfortable.
If you have experienced sexual abuse or any other form of physical violence, or a threat of violence from your spouse or partner, this can be a red flag for ongoing serious harm and risk to you and your family.
Because physical intimacy is a part of most romantic relationships, some individuals may not realize that feeling unsafe or becoming upset following a sexual encounter with a spouse or partner can be a warning sign of abuse.
Getting help for sexual abuse
Everyone deserves trust and mutual respect in their relationships. If something doesn’t feel right, know that help is available.
A first step can be calling your installation’s Family Advocacy Program office to speak with a victim advocate. They will listen to your concerns, and help you determine whether to make a report of the abuse and how to access medical care. This may include referring you to counseling services or a sexual assault forensic exam ─ and how to create a plan for your emotional and physical well-being.
A FAP victim advocate can also help you identify community-based, civilian assistance as opposed to relying on military-based resources.
The Family Advocacy Program works in coordination with civilian and military helping agencies to ensure victims receive support through a network of care as well as the protections to which they are entitled.
This network includes the DOD’s Domestic Abuse Victim Assistance Directory, which helps you locate on- and off-installation victim support services in your area – whether you’re in the U.S. or overseas. The directory can provide you with the direct contact number for a military Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate, as well as state and local 24/7 hotline information.
The DOD is committed to supporting everyone in the military community — service members and their families and civilian personnel — to maintain safe, stable and supportive relationships free from sexual violence.
The national emergency created by coronavirus disease 2019 is no exception. FAP has compiled additional safety tips and resources for navigating relationships safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you, or someone you know, is feeling unsafe or unsure as a result of a sexual experience with an intimate partner or spouse, or is seeking help for a sexual assault, call your installation’s FAP office to speak with a victim advocate, or contact an advocate through the DOD Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247. Civilian options for support through the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the National Sexual Assault Hotline are also available.