Michigan family law practitioners frequently are called upon to advise clients who are in the military. But how many family lawyers know about the domestic violence advocacy resources available to these clients through the Department of Defense? One such resource is the Family Advocacy Program (“FAP”), which helps family members married to employees of the DoD who are victims of domestic violence escape an abusive relationship. Counseling, rehabilitative services, and support – financial support – is available [Described more fully below]
The Department of Defense has taken a zero tolerance position on the issue of domestic abuse, saying:
"Child and spouse abuse threatens the fabric of our entire society. Concern for the welfare of Navy families and the effects of family violence on military performance prompted the establishment of the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) in 1976. Today the FAP is designed to address the prevention, identification, reporting, intervention, treatment, and follow-up of child and spouse maltreatment. Family Advocacy is a leadership issue. As part of "taking care of our own" it is the responsibility of each Navy and Marine Corps service member to ensure the safety health and well being of his/her family members. Additionally, each member is expected to exemplify Navy and Marine Corps leadership core values of honor, courage and commitment. Child and spouse abuse is unacceptable and incompatible with these high standards of professional and personal discipline."
Information I received from the Department of Defense indicates that family advocates will be looking at all forms of family violence, not just aggravated (injury-causing) physical violence. There are “degrees” of family violence; thus spousal abuse by definition at FAP includes physical violence that does not cause injury; verbal abuse; intimidation; and patterns of isolating, emotionally abusing, and/or economically controlling the victim. Threats, forced degrading behavior, and reprisals for reporting are also regarded as domestic abuse by FAP.
FAP defines child abuse “in the 1st degree” as an isolated incident of physical abuse such as inappropriate disciplinary practices where there is no injury or minor injury not requiring medical attention. It also includes minor emotional abuse such as withholding of attention. Physical abuse of all kinds is evaluated by the FAP. Child abuse, according to FAP, also includes belittling or other kinds of hostile emotional abuse and a pattern of shaming or ridiculing the child for showing normal emotions, or developmentally appropriate behavior. Gradations of more serious emotional abuse include systematic and/or extreme berating, humiliation, or derogation; instigating of scapegoating by other family members; and exposing the child or children to frequent, severe family violence.
A task force organized in the 1990s resulted in major changes in the Department of Defense’s approach to family violence. Family practitioners in Michigan need to be aware that for families of servicemen stationed under the command of the Naval Station Great Lakes, many programs are available to help victims, primarily women and children, who are victims of domestic abuse. FAP programs for victims offer information about domestic violence, about safe and confidential ways to seek help, about the rights of a military spouse, and about military and civilian personal protection orders.
Support is offered as follows:
(a) crisis intervention
(b) safety assessment and planning
(c) transportation to shelters, medical, legal and support groups
(d) liaison with the Command
(e) transitional compensation (financial support to help victims regain independence and transition to the civilian world, i.e., to obtain housing, education, child care, counseling, etc.)
(f) financial information
Advocacy is offered as follows:
(a) with investigative agencies (city, county and state police agencies)
(b) in the courts
The FAP has five major goals:
(1) The prevention of family violence
(2) Victim Safety and protection
(3) Offender accountability
(4) Rehabilitative education and counseling for victims
(5) Community accountability/responsibility for a consistent appropriate response.
Victim advocates at the Naval Station Great Lakes are available to talk with, advise, and counsel the victims of domestic violence. Family members of active-duty and retired members who require family violence rehabilitative education and counseling services beyond the scope of FAP may be referred to a local civilian provider, and the costs associated with civilian services may be partially reimbursable through CHAMPUS. Transitional compensation assistance for abused family members may also be available.
For more information, contact MaryAnn at 847-688-3603 ext. 133, or Janis Brown at 847-688-3603 ext. 123.
To contact Jeanne Hannah with your questions or to view her Family Law website, click here.