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Legal Information: Federal

Domestic Violence in the Military

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Laws current as of June 21, 2024

If I am a civilian advocate who works with victims, what do I need to know?

The Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program provided the following information for accuracy. Inclusion of this information does not imply endorsement of WomensLaw.org by the Department of Defense.

For civilian advocates working with victims who are in the military or who are being abused by a service member, it is important to know that the DoD does not tolerate domestic violence. DoD seeks to prevent and respond to all cases of abuse through the Family Advocacy Program (FAP). An FAP is located at every military installation in the U.S. and overseas where families are assigned. However, DoD recognizes that families and individuals seeking help for abuse have the right to choose which services work best for them, including civilian programs outside of the military. DoD partners with civilian domestic violence programs and community-based advocates to protect victims, lessen the impact of abuse, and give victims a choice in their path to safety.

In the military, commanders have a broad range of authority over service members. Victims of domestic violence, whether active duty or civilian, may be reluctant to report abuse due to concerns of loss of privacy, potential repercussions to the service member’s career, and the potential impact on the family’s financial security. Additionally, when military and/or civilian authorities fail to take appropriate action following a report of domestic violence, the abuse might happen again, and it could be worse. The possibility of retaliation can keep the victim from seeking help or reporting the domestic violence incident. DoD policy provides several reporting options and services to address these concerns and encourage victims to seek help, as outlined in Where could a victim report domestic violence within the military system?