- 81% of veterans suffering from depression and PTSD engaged in at least one violent act against their partner in the past year. – Dept. of Veterans Affairs Office of Public Health & Environmental Hazards (Jan 2009)
- Male veterans with PTSD are 2 to 3 times more likely to engage in domestic violence compared to those without PTSD. – Dept. of Veterans Affairs Office of Public Health & Environmental Hazards (Jan 2009)
- 44% of the of the veterans who accessed services at the VA were diagnosed with one or more mental health injuries – M.D. Sherman, F. Sautter, M.H. Hope, J.A. Lyons and X. Han, “Domestic Violence in Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Who Seek Couples Therapy.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (2006)
- When War Comes Home: The Effect of Combat Service on Domestic Violence. Resul Cesur and Joseph J. Sabia (May 2016) This study is the first to estimate the effects of military service during the global war on terrorism on domestic violence. They found theoritical and empirical evidence that proves that conditional of rank and occupation, deployment assignments increase the propensity for violence. They found that combat substantially increases the probability of intimate partner violence and child abuse.
At 23 years old I jumped wholeheartedly and very blindly into a marriage with an active duty military member. In fact, the year before we were married he was deployed in Iraq (for the 2nd time) and we dated long-distance through his entire deployment.
I had absolutely no previous knowledge about the military. I grew up in a northern state with no nearby military bases, no one in my family had been in the military since my grandfathers were in WWII, and I really knew nothing about what it is like to be a military wife or what military members experience. I had heard a little about PTSD and had started watching Army Wives on DVD while my then boyfriend was deployed… but I had absolutely no grasp on how it would impact my life.
It became very clear to me shortly after we were married that my then husband was suffering from PTSD… and I suffered as a result. For me personally the PTSD made the domestic violence more complicated. It was harder to be mad at someone who was clearly suffering… it was hard to not look at him as a victim. I justified a lot of his behaviors as a part of his pain and his healing… and I let him get away with far more than I ever should have. I very much wanted to help him and love him and heal him even if it meant becoming his ‘punching bag.’
I was “lucky” in the sense that he started experiencing physical symptoms of PTSD and the Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) that he had experienced in combat. He had severe migraines to the point of throwing up, he became dyslexic and would often stutter and jumble his words, his hand-writing became wavy and weird. (These symptoms brought him to the point of visiting the on-base psychologist mainly as a method of documenting his PTSD so that he would be able to receive VA benefits as a result.) Unfortunately the sessions did not seem to help anything. The psychologist wanted him to talk about his traumatic experiences to get them out, he struggled through, and I sat there at his side staring at his female psychologist wondering why she wasn’t picking up on our dynamic. He ‘allowed’ me to speak in sessions to tell her about his symptoms… the shooting in his sleep, the nightmares, his stuttering, his forgetfulness… but I had to bite my tongue for all the things I really wanted to tell her.
For me being a “dependent” made it harder for me to talk to anyone about the abuse I was dealing with. The military takes domestic violence very seriously, and my then husband used to constantly threaten me by telling me that anything I said or did could result in him losing his job, his health coverage, his identity and could even land him in military prison. He would tell me over and over again that anyone in the chain of command was responsible to report those types of accusations and that even talking to the Chaplin could get him in trouble. In a world where I was a ‘privileged guest’ of my husband on base, my ID card said I was a “Dependent” and I had to use my husband’s SSN to access anything and everything… I was scared and I felt very alone.
If I could go back and do things over again, I would have done a lot more research on the military and on combat and on PTSD. Today the data is staggering. I already believe that the Military picks a certain type of personality for combat… and the results of putting those people into combat zones are now becoming more and more clear. Even if I still wound up in that marriage with that person experiencing PTSD… I would have left the very first time he was violent with me, and I would have demanded that he receive psychological help before I ever even considered going back. I would have realized that even though he was wounded and even though he was dealing with trauma… it did not give him a special pass to do the same thing to me.
Today I work through the C-PTSD that I have as a result of living with and loving and being abused by someone who has PTSD. I work on it every single week in therapy. I work through the triggers that bring up all of those intense feelings. I take my baby steps and move forward… but it never had to be this way.
If you are experiencing domestic violence at the hands of a military member, I urge you to find the support system that you need to be safe. ❤