TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Every minute in the United States, nearly 20 people suffer physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner, equating to more than 10 million women and men each year.
“Whether you wear a uniform or not, violence exists and our job is to make sure we’re there to support someone regardless of rank, position, marital status or sexual orientation,” said Capt. Adrianna Harrell, Family Advocacy Element Chief.
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, Family Advocacy is focusing not just on physical and emotional domestic abuse, but also on domestic abuse perpetrated through technology.
“One of the things we’re focusing on this year is how technology can be used to facilitate domestic violence that may not be physical,” Harrell said. “It pulls us out of this notion that domestic violence is only physical or face-to-face.”
These signs of non-physical domestic violence can include someone’s partner trying to control their access to technology, tracking a partner’s phone without their permission and looking through their phone or other technologies to control who they interact with.
“It is case by case. It depends on the comfort level of the individual so that’s one of the big things is, what are you comfortable with?” Harrell said. “Maybe you’re comfortable with your partner texting you 10 times, and I’m only comfortable with two. I’m allowed to make that decision and adjust boundaries as needed.”
Family Advocacy will also work throughout the month to remind Airmen and civilians about the other more recognizable signs of domestic violence such as physical violence, isolation from friends and family, excessive jealousy beyond what’s in healthy limits, and controlling behaviors such as restricting access to finances and restricting access to medical care.
“Domestic violence exists on a spectrum so I always encourage someone, if something doesn’t feel okay and you don’t feel safe expressing that to your partner, to come talk to us so we can help you figure out if it’s a communication issue, or relationship stress or if this has reached a level of abuse where we need to intervene,” Harrell said. “Because it varies from one individual to the next, we encourage folks to just ask the question and go with their gut. If something starts to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, maybe not even physically just yet but you want to see what’s going on before things escalate, then always ask the question.”
Harrell said anyone who walks into Family Advocacy for help due to domestic violence can expect to be believed and supported.
Family Advocacy provides support to Airmen and civilian victims of domestic violence from beginning to end by connecting them with a Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate (DAVA), advocacy services and providing court and hospital accompaniment, as well as helping to come up with a safety plan for those trying to leave an abusive relationship. The Family Advocacy Strengths-based Therapy (FAST) service also provides relationship counseling to help work through communication issues in situations where the threshold of abuse hasn’t been reached.
“Our DAVA can support someone whether they’re civilian or active duty,” Harrell said. “Whether or not you wear a uniform, we can connect you with a DAVA and they can connect you with base resources and community resources.”
“With the military, it is a unique system where we do have the ability to engage with leadership. Folks have the ability to make a restricted report if that’s what they choose or we have the opportunity to call all parties around the table and say, ‘Hey this is a high-risk situation. There’s a high risk of lethality when this person is ready to exit this relationship. What do we need to do legally, law enforcement wise, mental health wise, and leadership wise to make sure that this person is safe?’”
Victims of domestic violence or anyone who might be uneasy about the conditions in their relationship can also contact a 24/7 anonymous hotline that can be reached at 415-0599. For the month of October, Family Advocacy will be hosting lunch and learns at 11 a.m. on Oct. 24 and 31 in Heritage Hall, where the differences between codependency and domestic violence will be discussed.
This year’s 1.5 mile Hope Walk in support of victims of domestic violence will take place at 6:15 a.m. on Oct. 22 and will begin in the Tinker Event Center parking lot.
“It can feel lonely and it can feel isolating, but we want them to know that they’re not alone and whatever we need to do to work to keep them safe is what we will do,” Harrell said.