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Chapter 3 Specific Justice Systems and Victims' Rights
(Section 3 Supplement)

Military Justice

The Department of Defense faces unique challenges in addressing family violence on military installations. The majority of the military population is concentrated in the highest risk group for interpersonal violence—young adult males and females between twenty and thirty years old. In addition, a large percentage of military, both in the United States and abroad, live in civilian communities. While coordination between civilian and military law enforcement is becoming more frequent, the military is precluded by law from enforcing civilian protection orders. There is also an inherent conflict between the need for military readiness, the military's highest priority, and victim confidentiality—especially for an active duty victim. Too, military law enforcement first responders are typically very young and law enforcement training often competes with major combat support training. Finally, there is a lack of intervention and advocacy resources in overseas locations and in many of the installations located in rural communities.

Statistical Overview: Family Violence

  • Among a child population of 1,127,492 in military communities in FY2001, there were 15,898 reports of child abuse and neglect made to the Military Family Advocacy Program. Of this number, 7,612 cases were substantiated. (The data only reflect child abuse and neglect reported to the DoD Family Advocacy Program; it is not an estimate of the total amount of child abuse and neglect that occurred in military families.) The data include physical abuse (including acts resulting in no injuries), sexual abuse, and emotional abuse (including emotional abuse without any acts of physical or sexual abuse). The alleged abuser may have been an active duty service member, a civilian parent, another family member, or a caregiver outside the family. In 94.2% of the substantiated reports, the alleged abuser was a family member (Keel 2002).

  • Among a couples population of 664,701 in military communities in FY2001, there were 18,398 spousal abuse cases reported to the Military Family Advocacy Program. Of this number, 10,967 cases were substantiated. (The data only reflect spouse abuse reported to the DoD Family Advocacy Program; it is not an estimate of the total amount of domestic violence that occurred between military spouses or between unmarried couples in which one person was in the military). Either the victim or the alleged abuser may have been an active duty service member or the civilian spouse of an active duty service member. The data do not reflect reported abuse in unmarried couples in which one person was in the military. The data also exclude reported abuse between dating couples, formerly married couples, and cohabiting unmarried couples who are active duty service members (Ibid.).

Legislation: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000

In October 1999, the Domestic Violence Provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) reassess its response capability to domestic violence in military families. In doing so, it called for the establishment of a Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence that would develop a strategic plan by which DoD could more effectively address matters relating to domestic violence (P.L. 106-165).

In Spring 2000, Secretary of Defense William Cohen appointed twenty-four members to the Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence (twelve members from the military and twelve civilians, including domestic violence specialists, judges, prosecutors, academic researchers, law enforcement, and government). On February 28, 2001, the first annual report of the Task Force was submitted to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. The report identified concerns and proposed improvements in the response to domestic violence in the military. While the Task Force found that DoD "has made a substantial commitment to address domestic violence over the past decade" it also detected several areas of weakness, including the need for an expanded definition of domestic violence, problems with the mandatory reporting policy, poor confidentiality for victims, concern for victim safety, and offender accountability (Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence 2001).

Task force findings and recommendations: first report.

  • Definition of domestic violence. The Task Force recommended that the DoD expand its definition of domestic violence victims and eligibility for military entitlements to include current and former spouses, a person with whom the abuser shares a child in common, and current and former intimate partners. Victims who fell outside this definition were to be referred to the appropriate civilian services (Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence 2001).

  • Mandatory reporting. The Task Force found that "mandatory reporting along with a subsequent loss of confidentiality was a major issue for victims, who expressed fears related to personal safety, loss of the active duty service member's career, and the belief that the commanding officer generally appeared more supportive of the service member/abuser than the spouse who was the victim." The Task Force recommended that DoD review the impact of mandatory reporting with respect to victim safety, victim disclosure, victim autonomy, access to services, and early identification of the offender. It was further recommended that DoD develop criteria for expected outcome measures to evaluate the effectiveness of mandatory reporting (Ibid).

  • Home removal. The Task Force determined that there was no real policy established within the Services on the removal of family members from the home after a domestic violence incident. The Task Force recommended that DoD develop and disseminate policy at the highest level to determine who should be removed following a domestic violence incident, and to ensure the goal of victim safety by the identification of the primary aggressor (Ibid).

  • Confidentiality. The Task Force found that many victims of domestic violence who wanted intervention found themselves in a no-win situation. Victims' concerns included fear of further abuse or intimidation, financial issues, shame and embarrassment, a sense of isolation, loss of privacy, perceived lack of social services, and fear of family dissolution. In addition, the study found that several offender-related factors influenced the response to a reported incident of spousal abuse as did the commander's personal attitude and beliefs about military families and abuse (Ibid). The Task Force recommended that DoD promote the National Domestic Violence Hotline through specialized marketing and outreach to families and identify information that would enable the Hotline to assist military spouse and partner violence victim calls. It also recommended that DoD create a pilot program to:

    • Provide military spouse and partner victims with access to confidential community services.

    • Increase overall collaboration with installation personnel.

    • Explore all options for creating a system of confidential services, privileged communications, and exemptions to mandatory reporting with the goal of creating access to a credible avenue for victims to receive "support, information, options, and resources that address the violence in their lives" (Ibid).

  • Other recommendations. The Task Force also made recommendations on improving community collaboration; improving training of command, criminal justice, and healthcare personnel; standardizing response protocols to domestic violence incidents; instituting fatality reviews and case management procedures for tracking offenders; increasing awareness of the Lautenberg amendment; training on transitional compensation for victims; and implementing continuing evaluation of the response to domestic violence as an integral component of the program (Ibid).

    Note: The Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from owning and possessing firearms and ammunition (S. Amdt. 262).

In November 2001, in response to the report, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz issued a memo to the Secretaries of the Military Departments, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior DoD leadership stating that "Domestic violence is an offense against the institutional values of the Military Services of the United States of America. Commanders at every level have a duty to take appropriate steps to prevent domestic violence, protect victims, and hold those who commit it accountable." Accordingly, leaders at "all levels of the Department" were called upon to:

  • "provide timely information to new personnel and family members, to include lists of locally available military and civilian resources to prevent domestic violence, procedures for responses to reports of domestic violence, and information about the DoD Transitional Compensation Program;

  • improve coordination between military and civilian community agencies that provide the first response to domestic violence issues and incidents, especially through negotiated agreements;

  • increase protection to victims through coordinated enforcement of civilian orders of protection affecting military personnel on DoD installations and military protective orders issued by commanding officers; and

  • update and standardize education and training programs on domestic violence for commanding officers, senior noncommissioned officers, and personnel with law enforcement, health care, and legal responsibilities, to ensure those programs contain information on how to prevent domestic violence, how to recognize when it has occurred, and how to take action to protect victims and to hold offenders accountable as appropriate."

Task force findings and recommendations: second report. In February 2002, the Task Force presented its second report to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The Task Force noted that it had been "encouraged" to see the November 19, 2001, memorandum and that coupled with President George W. Bush's statement in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, "a firm foundation has now been established for the continued work of preventing and responding to domestic violence in the military."

The second annual report contained a total of eighty-six recommendations in five areas: community collaboration, education and training, offender accountability, victim safety, and program management. The report also contained the Task Force's findings and recommendations for preventing and responding to domestic violence at overseas military installations, a statutory mandate. The Task Force found the "same dedication and hard work in preventing and responding to domestic violence, as well as many of the same challenges and issues found at stateside installations." It also found, however, that "any shortfall in resources overseas, whether it be funding shortages or position vacancies, was . . . much more difficult to deal with due to the general lack of host nation resources outside the U.S. military community." These findings resulted in four specific recommendations. DoD should:

  • "explore all options for hiring and maintaining the mix of providers necessary to assess and intervene in domestic violence incidents overseas."

  • "ensure maximum use of treatment/intervention resources in the civilian communities overseas when available and appropriate."

  • "ensure that foreign ability and cultural competence are included in job qualification standards for all personnel providing domestic violence services overseas."

  • "ensure that the Services have an ongoing cultural competence program for all personnel in overseas locations."
DoD's response to the second report is being readied for release to Congress.

For 2002, the Task Force agreed on five desired outcomes and established a work plan and timeline. The outcomes include:

  • Developing a model for prevention of domestic violence.

  • Developing an intervention process model with protocols for victim advocacy, offender intervention, command, and law enforcement.

  • Ensuring that there is a victim-centered focus throughout the models and protocols.

  • Developing a Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M) for implementing the Task Force recommendations.

  • Ensuring that there is a mechanism in place across the DoD to ensure system accountability.

A comprehensive final report is expected to be submitted in early 2003.

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Chapter 3 Specific Justice Systems and Victims' Rights June 2002
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