The War At Home

How PTSD Leads to Intimate Partner Violence in the Military

With the Texas Massacre showing us that even the military is not immune from domestic violence, I decided to take a closer look at the issue. What I found was both shocking and sad. It turns out that military veterans are responsible for a staggering 21% of all domestic violence nationwide. In fact, levels of intimate partner violence (IPV) in post 9/11 veteran’s communities have begun to explode. Between 2006-2011 there was a “skyrocketing” of military members charged with domestic violence at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs. During roughly the same period, PTSD rates also surged at the fort as more and more soldiers began returning home from lengthy, repeat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq (SF Gate).

Why This Issue Isn’t Being Dealt With

Unfortunately, the huge increase in traumatized veterans with PTSD influences the whole military family unit, yet the victims of the resulting abuse are often left to fend for themselves as the issue of domestic violence in the military goes largely unaddressed. Most military families do not file a report of violence in the home, let alone have charges pressed against the abuser. The military has recently begun stepping up programs to address the issue, however, due to the extreme pressures experienced by a military family and the culture of support for the troops during times of war, they are largely ineffective interventions. Anecdotal evidence suggests that due to military culture, speaking out against veteran violence is often seen as a “betrayal” of sorts. This leaves most of the victims to suffer with only the support of one or two other military wives, if not completely alone (The Daily Beast).

The Pattern of Violence in Military IPV

The issue of military IPV going largely unaddressed may also be exacerbated by the fact that the pattern that IPV takes in the military is quite different than in non-military cases. Unlike most non-military cases, the abuse does not tend to follow that same “recurring power-and-control cycle” that is usually discussed in IPV literature. “The journal Disabled American Veterans stated that veteran interpersonal violence often involves ‘only one or two extremely violent and frightening abusive episodes that quickly precipitate treatment seeking’” (The Daily Beast). This makes military IPV all that much more dangerous. The fact that there may be no warning of an incident of extreme violence leaves military partners in an extremely vulnerable position.

The Role of PTSD

The fact that there not usually much warning to an outburst of military IPV may be because a large part of violence at home by military personnel is not due to the same factors that it is in non-military abusers. Most of the violence in military personnel is the result of trauma the veteran is carrying around from combat. Studies show that at least 50% of military personnel who have committed IPV or other family violence are at the being treated for PTSD or other combat-related mental health issues. In fact, the VA has shown that veterans with PTSD are two the three times as likely to engage in abusive behavior toward a partner or family member than veterans without PTSD (The Daily Beast). Around Fort Hood alone, the number of veterans diagnosed with PTSD has jumped from 310 in 2004 to almost 2500 in 2009. This alarming rate of growth does not even account for the veterans suffering from PTSD who are not seeking treatment from the VA and therefore go “undocumented.” This continuing rise in veterans suffering from PTSD is only going to cause rates of violence on the home-front to continue to grow as well.

The Problem Continues

Unfortunately, rates of PTSD in soldiers is only continuing to explode. This is largely because the war in Afghanistan has gone on now for a shocking 16 years. There are simply not enough soldiers to sustain a war that long. Therefore, veterans are being asked to go into combat time and time again. Research has shown that longer and more repeat tours by soldiers lead to higher rates of mental combat stress and PTSD (SF Gate). There is a push from many troop supporters for the military to adopt a “one and done” policy for soldiers before the next war begins, however, Congress has refused to act. This inaction will only lead to more veterans with PTSD or other combat-related mental health problems, which will in turn only lead to more military domestic violence. The time to act is now: before more military wives and families are victimized by veterans who are traumatized by simply serving our country with the utmost courage. In other words, by being real-life American heroes.