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The Family Advocacy Program, or FAP, is the Department of Defense program designated to address domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect, and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. FAP is delivered through the military services who work in coordination with key military components and civilian agencies to:
- Prevent abuse
- Encourage early identification and prompt reporting
- Promote victim safety and empowerment
- Provide appropriate treatment for affected service members and their families
Find your local Family Advocacy Program.
If you would like to learn more about FAP’s services – or need to make a report of domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect, or problematic sexual behavior – use the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS tool for local contact information.
FAP directly provides or coordinates a range of services for individuals and families impacted by violence, abuse and neglect. FAP services are designed to:
- Identify and build on individual and family strengths
- Increase protective factors that have been found to reduce risk
- Promote the safety and well-being of service members and their families
The Family Advocacy Program services are available at every military installation where families are assigned. Trained FAP victim advocates and clinicians offer a range of services and programs, including workshops to build skills for healthy relationships, help in planning for safety in a crisis, as well as support to new and expecting parents. They also respond to reports of domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. Whether you are seeking help managing abuse from your spouse or partner, or have concerns for a child’s safety, FAP can assist and connect you to helpful resources.
Here’s how FAP supports service members and their families through prevention, reporting and treatment – and how you can play a role in supporting members of the military community impacted by abuse.
How FAP supports service members and their families impacted by abuse
The Family Advocacy Program, or FAP, provides clinical and non-clinical services to prevent and respond to domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. FAP’s top priority is safety for individuals and families in the military community who may be at risk for, or experiencing, abuse. FAP also works with service members and their families to encourage healthy, violence-free relationships and nurturing parenting. Some of these services include:
- The New Parent Support Program. Active-duty service members and their partners who have or are expecting a baby may participate in this program, which offers home visitation from a nurse or licensed social worker. Home visitors provide a variety of services tailored to each family and parent’s needs, including breastfeeding support, lessons on effective and safe parenting of infants and toddlers, tips for new fathers and more.
- Victim advocacy and support. Whether you are in need of immediate help in a crisis or are seeking information about counseling for emotional safety and support, FAP victim advocates and clinicians can work with you to develop a plan to address unhealthy patterns of behavior or abuse in a relationship.
- Treatment, counseling and rehabilitation for service members who use violence or abuse in their relationships with spouses, partners or children. FAP works with the support of command to teach new and constructive ways of interacting, managing conflicts and communicating. Counseling to address untreated trauma affecting those who harm the people they love, and one-on-one support to teach positive parenting techniques, are examples of FAP services.
How FAP handles reports of domestic abuse and child abuse and neglect
The Department of Defense has specific definitions of domestic abuse and child abuse and neglect, which inform when the Family Advocacy Program must notify military law enforcement and command of a report of abuse.
FAP also responds to reports of children and youth exhibiting problematic sexual behavior. FAP addresses these reports and provides support for the parents of both children impacted by, and child exhibiting harmful sexual behavior.
Below, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about how FAP handles reports of domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect, and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth.
The Department of Defense and each of the military services define domestic abuse as a pattern of behavior resulting in:
- Emotional or psychological abuse, which may include excessive jealousy, personal insults or verbal harassment, as well as threatening language suggesting the use or future use of physical violence
- Economic control, which includes one spouse/partner controlling how the other spends funds, intentionally accumulating credit card debt in the other’s name or refusing to share the decision making on household finances
- Interference with personal liberty, which may include tracking the victim through electronic devices, apps or social media, or forbidding the victim to leave the home
- Spousal neglect, in which one spouse or partner fails to provide necessary care or assistance to the other spouse or partner in the event they are incapable of self-care physically, emotionally or culturally
Domestic abuse may also involve physical violence, including sexual abuse. The use, attempted use, or threatened use of force is considered domestic violence and an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, state and federal laws.
Department policy requires the harmful behavior to be directed by a spouse or former spouse, or current/former intimate partner, defined as:
- A person with whom you have a child in common; or,
- A person with whom you live with currently or have lived with in the past.
There does not have to be any physical violence for FAP to provide help for domestic abuse. If FAP receives a report of domestic abuse involving a service member, they will contact the victim to ensure their safety, assess risk for immediate harm and work collaboratively with the victim to determine next steps tailored to their situation. There are different options for reporting abuse. Depending on who makes the report of domestic abuse to FAP, different steps may be taken to notify command, interview the alleged offender and contact military law enforcement. Victims have options for making a report of domestic abuse.
The department and each of the military services define child abuse and neglect as the physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect of a child that harms or threatens their welfare. Victims of child abuse are under the age of 18. Under department policy, harm to the child must be committed by a parent or guardian or trusted person acting in a caregiving role. The child must be a dependent of a service member, or a civilian child who has been harmed by a service member or a civilian working in or associated with a Department of Defense school, child development center, family child care home or youth activity.
In some cases of child abuse or neglect, the incident may be an example of poor judgment or is a one-time act not characteristic of their relationship with the child. In other cases, an adult responsible for the child’s care will repeatedly harm or threaten the child using inappropriate discipline, physical or sexual violence, withholding food or basic care, or not providing adequate supervision.
Upon receiving a report of child abuse or neglect, FAP will notify the parent(s) of the alleged victim if one or both parents are not suspected to have caused the harm. FAP will work with the family to ensure the child’s safety, and provide emotional support and other services, as requested, as the case unfolds. FAP will work with the local Child Protective Services, which is required by law to investigate the reported abuse. FAP will also notify the command of the alleged victim’s parents.
Please note: If you are seeking information on problematic sexual behavior in children and youth, you can learn more about Healthy Sexual Behaviors in Children on Military OneSource.
Problematic sexual behavior in children and youth is defined as behavior, initiated by children and youth under the age of 18, that involves using sexual or private body parts in a manner that is developmentally inappropriate or potentially harmful to the individual or the individuals impacted by the behavior. FAP will become involved upon receiving a report of concerning sexual behavior by a child or adolescent. Whether the incident happened at a Department of Defense Education Activity school, Child and Youth Program, Child Development Center or elsewhere, the Family Advocacy Program will work with you and your child to determine the appropriate response and support you through next steps.
FAP works with individuals and families to end the use of violence and other harmful behaviors in relationships, not to end military careers. FAP’s first priority is to employ trauma-informed and research-supported interventions to restore safety in relationships when possible, and to empower those who have experienced harm to access and utilize the resources they need to heal.
Once victim safety has been established, the chain of command will typically support service members who stop abusive behavior, follow treatment recommendations and work to achieve more positive relationships. With FAP intervention and treatment, many service members can make the sustained changes necessary to avoid future abusive behavior and continue a successful military service. Just as domestic abuse and child abuse and neglect are crimes in the civilian justice system, incidents of abuse that rise to the level of serious harm in the military are subject to requirements under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and/or command action.
FAP victim advocates are trained professionals who provide non-clinical services and support to service members and their families experiencing domestic abuse, including:
- Help creating a safety plan. A safety plan is an important tool for managing risk of further harm to individuals experiencing abuse, as well as their children. The individual experiencing abuse guides the development of the safety plan so it is tailored to their strengths, needs, risks, abilities, resources and circumstances. Safety plans often cover:
- A contingency plan for child care (if applicable)
- Emergency shelter
- What to have ready to take with them if they leave home
- Information on how to stay safe while in contact or living with the person causing harm
- Confidential help deciding how to make a report of domestic abuse. There are options for keeping your report of domestic abuse confidential in the military. FAP victim advocates (as well as FAP clinicians and medical professionals) have the authority to keep all information private (with the exception of high-risk cases implying immediate harm). One option, a restricted report, allows victims to seek the full range of FAP services and medical care, but does not trigger an investigation by military law enforcement, notify command or involve the abusive spouse/partner in any way. Another option is an unrestricted report, which offers victims all FAP services, but also includes notification to military law enforcement, command and requires an interview with the alleged abuser.
- Help getting a Military Protective Order. An MPO is issued by a military commander and may order the service member to stay away from the victim, as well as refrain from all contact. Commanders can tailor their orders to meet the specific needs of the victim. It is important to remember that neither a restraining order nor an MPO will prevent the abuser from returning home or entering the victim’s workplace, but it does make it illegal for them to do so. For more information on MPOs, you may wish to meet with a FAP victim advocate, who can guide you through the process and answer any questions.
- Help connecting to civilian resources. You may decide to seek help for domestic abuse, including legal services, transitional housing, or filing for a civil protective order. FAP victim advocates can assist you with referrals to trusted community partners. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for immediate help on civilian, community-based resources for domestic violence in your area.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse and are seeking help, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to locate the closest Family Advocacy Program, or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 to be connected with an advocate for immediate emotional support and safety planning.
Call 911 if you are in immediate danger of assault or physical injury. If you are on a military installation, call your military law enforcement office.