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Legal Information: Federal

Domestic Violence in the Military

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Laws current as of October 9, 2019

I have heard the terms “domestic abuse” and “domestic violence” used by military personnel. Is there a difference?

In the military, “domestic abuse” and “domestic violence” are two different terms.

Domestic abuse is used in the military as a broader term that includes all forms of relationship abuse against a current or former spouse or intimate partner, including physical harm and non-physical harm, like harassment and emotional abuse. The military considers domestic abuse to include a pattern of behavior resulting in emotional/psychological abuse, economic control, sexual abuse, “spousal neglect,” and interference with personal liberty.1 “Spousal neglect” is when an adult fails to provide necessary care or assistance to a spouse who is incapable of self-care physically, emotionally, or culturally.2

For the purpose of the military’s Family Advocacy Program (FAP), domestic violence is defined as an offense against you under the United States Code, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), or state or local law, if you are:

  1. the abuser’s current or former spouse;
  2. the abuser’s current or former intimate partner with whom s/he shares or has shared a home;
  3. the abuser’s current or former romantic or dating partner; or
  4. someone who shares a child in common with the abuser.1

To qualify as domestic violence, this offense must:

  1. involve the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force or violence against you; or
  2. be a violation of a lawful order issued for your protection.1

Domestic violence is also the name of a specific offense under the UCMJ.3 Offenses under the UCMJ can be punished in a variety of manners, including trial by court-martial.

If your relationship with the person who is harming you does not meet any of these requirements, you could still qualify for a civil protection order (CPO) in the state where you live. Go to the Restraining Orders section and enter your state in the drop-down menu to see if you qualify for a CPO.

1 Department of Defense Directive 6400.06, sections 3 incorporating change 2, May 16, 2023
2 Family Advocacy Program Content Guide
3 Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 128b; 10 U.S.C. 928b