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How to Help Service-Connected Victims of Domestic Abuse

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Call The Hotline

For immediate support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for 24/7 help in English, Spanish and more than 140 other languages.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse — a friend, relative, neighbor or coworker. However, people often don’t know how to help after discovering it is happening to someone they know. That’s why it is important to understand domestic abuse, so you can support victims safely, confidentially and at their own pace. No one ever deserves to be abused.

Disclosing abuse can be embarrassing and frightening for victims, so you should be sure to provide nonjudgmental support. Also, recognize that some victims may never report their abuse. If you ever feel a victim is in immediate danger, get help right away.

Understanding domestic abuse

Domestic abuse usually involves a pattern of physical, emotional and verbal abuse.

  • Abusers may hurt their victims and maintain control over them, using insults, put-downs, public humiliation, name-calling and/or physical abuse. Abusers may threaten violence, suicide, or to withhold needed financial resources or take away the children.
  • The abuser’s need to feel powerful and in control of another person’s behavior and actions underlies all domestic abuse.
  • High levels of stress created by the cycle of deployment and reintegration, recovery from physical or psychological injuries or military transitions can increase the risk of abuse.
  • Frequent relocations that separate military families from friends and other social support systems can add to high levels of stress.
  • Economic dependence of many military spouses may prevent them from reporting abuse.

Warning signs of abuse

Being aware of the signs is the first step in getting help or offering support to someone who may be at risk. Some of the signs of domestic abuse are:

  • Fear of one’s spouse or of ending the relationship, which you may see in response to the spouse’s phone calls, texts or presence with flinching, noticeable nervousness or avoidance
  • Physical abuse, including cases in which someone is being hit, slapped or pinched
  • Emotional abuse, such as put-downs, embarrassment or humiliation in private or in front of others
  • Social isolation, in which the victim is prevented from seeing or talking to relatives or friends
  • Threats of violence against the victim, the victim’s children or people the victim loves
  • Unexplained bruises or other physical injuries, which some victims could try to hide with makeup or clothing that may seem to be out of season
  • Increased or unexplained absences from work
  • Harassing phone calls at work or at home
  • Withdrawal from friends, family or fellow service members

How you can help

If you have a friend, relative, neighbor or co-worker who may be a victim of domestic abuse, reach out and offer support. Many people are uncomfortable raising an issue they think is none of their business, or they’re afraid that revealing their suspicions will increase the risk of abuse or adversely affect a service member’s career. But domestic abuse can be a matter of life and death. Here are ways you can offer support.

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Are You Ready?

Ending domestic abuse is a shared community responsibility. Learn specific ways you can help to unite against domestic abuse, including by sharing resources through this flyer.

  • Call 911 if the victim is in immediate danger of assault or physical injury. If on a military installation, call your military law enforcement office.
  • Show your concern. Let the person you’re concerned about know you’re ready to listen and support them without judgment. Learn more about how to be an upstander, not a bystander.
  • Do not pressure the victim to leave. Instead, tell them you are there for them and that you can help them plan for their safety or seek outside support when they are ready. Encourage the victim to seek medical attention for any injuries.
  • Offer information about support resources. You can urge your relative or friend to use the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Locator to speak with a victim advocate or call the Military Crisis Line at 988, press 1. For treatment and health care options related to military sexual trauma, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
  • Make sure the victim understands the military’s options for reporting domestic abuse. Except in certain circumstances, victims can get assistance from a domestic abuse victim advocate and receive medical care without it resulting in an investigation or notification to the service member’s command.
  • Be there for the person. A victim of domestic abuse may need you to make phone calls, go with him or her to the police or help with child care while working out a safety plan. Although you can’t do it all, ask and do what you can to help.
  • Respect the victim’s decisions. A victim often returns to the abuser several times before leaving for good. Your continued help, support and encouragement are vital. Remind them that you are there for them and can help them plan for their safety or seek outside support when they are ready.
  • Share this United Against Domestic Abuse landing page with friends, family and co-workers. Unite as many people as possible in the effort to end domestic abuse.
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Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Locator

Find help for domestic abuse from the victim advocate closest to you by using the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Locator — whether you’re in the United States or overseas.

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