The report, led by Dr Deirdre MacManus of the King’s Center for Military Health Research, is one of the first qualitative studies in the UK to explore the unique experiences of civilian victims / survivors of IPVA perpetrated by service personnel or old.
In 25 interviews with survivors of IPVA perpetrated by military personnel, most reported multiple forms of abuse, with physical and psychological trauma resulting from their experiences.
Respondents perceived aspects of military culture to have contributed to their experiences. These included: military training or rank dynamics contributing to normalization of violence and aggressive communication styles; alcohol consumption; pressures resulting from work-family conflict (where the family was seen as the âsecond bestâ); and a gendered expectation of wives in predominantly male military communities.
Aspects of the military lifestyle, including frequent travel, deployments, and transitioning out of the military, were also seen as contexts in which IPVA was more likely to occur or worsen. Examples given were deployment separations and challenges of reintegrating into family life and / or relationships or difficulties adjusting to life after military service.
The research also examined the reasons and barriers to seeking help among victim-survivors. Barriers to seeking help included a lack of understanding of IPVA, self-blame, isolation, lack of knowledge of available help, and difficulty accessing services. Some common motivators for seeking help included extreme violence or escalation of violence, and the need to protect children or other family support networks.
Those who asked for help reported mixed experiences with civilian and military support services, with many believing that military support services prioritized or wanted to protect the person on duty, and did not prioritize their services the same. needs as civilian partners or did not provide sufficient protection to victims. And yet, many also reported a lack of staff resources and skills to deal with IPVA in civilian services and issues with information sharing between military and civilian services, including between the Royal Military Police and the system. of civil justice.
The report’s recommendations include:
- IPVA Education for Military Families
- Training of health and wellness staff on the identification and management of IPVA
- Greater awareness of periods of increased risk of IPVA, such as post-separation, the peri-deployment period and transition to civilian life
- Consideration of how to mitigate the negative impact of geographic relocations
- More accessible, independent, confidential support from the chain of command, for partners and families.
Thomas McBarnet, Director of Programs at Forces in Mind Trust, said: âThe latest British Armed Forces Families Strategy aims to recognize the vital role military families play. In this context, we must recognize that sometimes the challenges of military life can lead to violence and abuse in the home. The conclusions and recommendations of the report are welcome as they raise important questions for the military chain of command and support services.
âThis report is a wake-up call that there are vulnerable partners and at-risk groups within the Veterans community. “
Kathryn Fox suffered abuse from her former partner, who was in the military. She said: âHe was the love of our lives. But we lived through a nightmare for 18 months when he returned from Afghanistan.
âAlthough I desperately wanted to help him, we had no support. I tried to talk to the Army Social Service, but they didn’t help us because they didn’t admit there was a problem, and my word wasn’t enough. Getting away from the man you loved, when he was in so much pain, was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. But it was the right decision to keep my children and myself safe.
âI know things have changed since then, but there’s such a long way to go to make sure other families are supported like I haven’t been. I hope people take note of the experiences people have shared in this report and take action to improve the lives of military families past and present.
Experiences of Intimate PartnerViolence and Abuse Among CivilianPartners of UK Military Personnel: Perceptions of the Impact of MilitaryLife and Experiences of Help-seekingand Support (Dr Filipa Alves-Costa, Rebecca Lane, Dr Rachael Gribble, Professor Nicola T Fear, Dr Deirdre MacManus) can to be read here.