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Take a stand: End domestic violence

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jess Lockoski
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
There was a trail of thrown objects throughout the home, to include children's toys and broken glass everywhere. The house was nicely decorated with family photos covering walls and wedding ceremony mementos on shelves and tables. I didn't expect that.
Domestic Violence - it's a serious, yet uncomfortable topic people don't like to speak about; however the Air Force does a good job in advocating its awareness year round in addition to an official observation each October.

I only learned about military domestic violence when I received my first alert photography call for security forces in base housing a few years ago. Since then, I've documented countless domestic violence calls including suspected child abuse cases.

Public Affairs' Airmen are held to not specifically discuss this type of documentation with respect to an individuals' privacy and are bound to ethical and legal integrity. At times, we may testify in military court but this is what I can say. Domestic violence is a real issue, and it may become a silent epidemic if never leaves the confines of a household.

At that particular household, the hole punched in the living room wall was as big as my camera equipment. There were no traces of empty alcohol bottles or items that would indicate a stereotypical fight.

Back then, my oversimplified conception of living a military lifestyle - with high standards, a respectful image and obligations to our nation - didn't include violence that was not directly in support of war. That was a misunderstanding. Military life can get stressful in and of itself.

The family's pets were startled and anxious from the altercation as were their next-door neighbors, who initially called the law enforcement desk to report it. Contusions and scratches they put on each other's bodies over the course of time were evident next to fresh red marks too.

I took photos and left the scene hoping the couple could find a peaceful resolution.

A few months later, I ran into the same family while standing in line at the Base Exchange. The wife looked at me embarrassed, and I felt bad just as I'm sure they felt awkward. But what's been more uncomfortable since then was reporting to a similar domestic violence call to a familiar place - a close friend's home.

The experience left me speechless and upset. I didn't foresee or know of my friend's struggles. Where were their avenues of help before it came to a call to 911?

Military chaplains, the family advocacy program, medical professionals and a support system of family, friends and peers are available 24 hours a day. I still didn't see why that network of people was kept out of the loop.

There was no doubt many stressors drove their violence but it was not an excuse to justify it. My friend told me later, she didn't have the strength to say, "No," to the abuse, and it was easier to block it out or physically and verbally fight back. She was emotionally beaten down and started believing the abuse was acceptable; she was embarrassed and didn't tell anyone.

It got to the point where the military police intervened for her to finally seek those resources to protect and help both victim and abuser, and help them recover and heal with counseling, a step that allowed them to work on their marriage.

No one deserves to live with that violence, whether it's verbal, psychological, emotional, physical, or covert and neglectful. It often goes unresolved because of perceived threats to end careers, the fears and reality of facing military judicial punishment, or more intimately, the complexities of failure in once-healthy relationships. Those reasons and more still do not make abuse okay.

If you see someone struggling through signs of domestic violence and abuse, go to them and offer help without judgment. If you find yourself in a situation where you or members of your family are experiencing domestic abuse and violence, please speak up because you don't have to live with that.

You have the right to a healthy military life.