As if domestic abuse isn’t an epidemic enough … within the military life, it’s even more of an issue.
One of the women in my support group (I’ll call her Jane because that’s a plain name) is the wife of a military officer. It took a long time—over a decade—and a wake-up call from concerned friends to finally help her admit that no, her marriage wasn’t normal. Women in normal relationships don’t walk on eggshells around their partner, constantly monitoring every word and action so as not to activate one of their husband’s countless “triggers” (triggers that keep changing from day to day, so victims never know up from down, left from right, or black from white). Women in normal relationships don’t cringe in terror every time their husbands punch a hole in the wall in violent rage, or have to clean up the sharp, cutting pieces of broken pottery, bowls, glasses, vases … and their own hearts.
Women in normal relationships aren’t called “stupid f*ck!ng retarded bitch” and “whore” and “crazy” and “selfishly uncaring … full of hate.” Women married to empathetic, loving partners don’t creep around the house, trying to be silent so as to go unnoticed, all the while listening attentively to the sounds coming from the kitchen. More ice clinking in the glass … there goes the door to the liquor cabinet again … that’s four drinks so far this evening, and it’s only 7 PM … tonight will be a bad one, be prepared ...
Jane has been living in a form of hell.
But anyway. That’s not the point of this post. My point is, I’ve come to a wonderment …
Here’s what I’ve been wondering: is domestic violence more prevalent in military households? I wonder this because Jane isn’t the only military spouse who has opened up to me. Also, she’s told me that her husband thinks his behavior is perfectly normal. Guys punch holes in walls when they’re angry—that’s just they do, he’s told her. Guys sit around watching porn (and thereby violating their sacred marriage vows, demeaning their wives and women in general, and abusing themselves in the process—go look up CCC 2352 and 2354—all in one fell swoop). Guys call women names—it’s a “guy” thing and “names are just nouns.” Is that like “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”?
We all know just how bogus that saying is.
Jane has also told me that it’s a “normal” thing for guys to stalk their “loved ones” by installing nanny cams or other “home security” cameras in their homes, then watching their wives at random, often sharing the video with co-workers. Jane’s husband actually chuckled as he told her stories of his co-workers spying on their wives like this. Sorry, but that’s not funny. It’s creepy.
The list goes on, but it's too long to mention here. I'm sure you get the point.
Why is it that Jane’s military husband is surrounded by men who validate his abusive patterns and attitudes with abusive patterns and attitudes of their own? Is intimate partner violence (IPV) so incredibly common that the majority of men in all walks of life simply “don’t know better” and normalize it through their own distorted beliefs?
I think not. IPV is far too common, that’s true—but it’s not the norm in genuine relationships. This led me to wonder about the sorts of men, and the atmosphere, Jane’s husband is surrounded by. Is it something in the water on base? Or, perhaps it’s in the sands of Afghanistan …
What I found out is that “soldiers with PTSD are up to three times more likely to be aggressive with their female partners than those without such trauma,” according to a 2011 report from the Pentagon. The increased levels of domestic abuse among soldiers affects all branches. Jane’s husband is in the Army, with multiple deployments to his credit (and to her detriment). The Air Force, Navy, and Marines follow a similar sad pattern.
The statistics are actually a bit frightening:
2-3: Male combat veterans who suffer from PTSD are two to three times more likely to abuse their female partners than veterans not suffering from PTSD.
1/3: About 33 percent of combat veterans with PTSD report having been aggressive with their intimate partner at least once in the previous year.
9 in 10: About 91 percent of combat veterans with PTSD reported being psychologically aggressive with their intimate partner in the previous year. (Info from domesticabuseshelters.org)
If you’re a military spouse experiencing domestic violence in any form (physical, emotional, psychological, verbal, or a combination of any of those, whether covert or overt), I’d love to hear your story. I want to find out how many more military spouses are suffering in the same way—and what we can do about it.
You can email me at createsoulspace [at] protonmail.com or use my contact form.
(Military photos are from freepik.com; "Sticks and Stones" copyright of Keariel Peasley)
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.