{mosimage}Thanks to the media overkill concerning the deaths of soldiers Holly Wimunc and Megan Touma — as well as other highly publicized cases from the past related to victims that had Fort Bragg or Fayetteville ties — the area is being scrutinized and discussed in an increasingly negative light. Across the nation, folks are wondering what the military is doing wrong to create a breed of spouse abusers and batterers. Even though this perception is more myth than truth when you look at crime statistics, Fort Bragg does take measures to educate soldiers about spousal abuses and to council its victims.
    Tom Hill, the ACS-Family Advocacy Program Manager at Forth Bragg, said there is a program specifically designed to provide assessment and treatment for victims and perpetrators of family violence — including child victims — that is staffed by about 35 professionals.
    “Every instance of possible abuse is fully assessed and a treatment plan is developed for the family or individuals,” said Hill. “There are a wide variety of treatments available.”
Hill said there are also preemptive measures to head off spousal or child abuse, providing a once-a-year workshop to provide the soldiers with information on getting help for family, relationship and parenting problems.
    Hill added that the program provides training and workshops to educate couples, parents and single soldiers on the prevention of dating violence, sexual assault, child abuse partner abuse and related problems.
    Cornell University studies effectiveness of the prevention program on a regular basis.
    According to Hill, preemptive programs that have been recently started to address this problem include: hiring a full time family readiness person for every battalion to help families cope when soldiers deploy; starting a victim advocate program where victims of partner abuse or sexual assault can call anonymously at any time day or night to get help; a new parent support program with 14 nurses who can go to the home and provide anything from advice on breast feeding to how to get a quick no interest Army loan to fix the car; the creation of an Army Community Service station inside the Cross Creek Mall to provide information about post programs; doubling the number of child care agencies on-base during the next year; and a Military One Source hotline that couples can call to get free off-post marriage counseling.
    As far as statistics showing the abuse rate of Fort Bragg soldiers, Hill says there are many factors that skew results.
    “The numbers tend to rise and fall for obvious reasons,” said Hill. “For instance, child neglect cases rise during deployments because there is one less parent in the home and the one left behind might become overwhelmed or not watch the kids as well. During deployments partner abuse cases go way down because there are less couples together, but when they return the numbers boost back up to pre-deployment levels. There’s an increase every summer partly because the children get out of school and there might be more arguments about discipline, etc.”{mosimage}
    There is also treatment for soldiers who are guilty of minor or one-time abuse, while instances of serious or serial abuse can land a soldier in prison and a discharge from the Army. Hill said that when a victim’s spouse is discharged or imprisoned for abuse, the victim and his or her children are are eligible for military pay, full commissary, PX, medical and dental benefits for up to three years after the incident. According to Hill, this policy was instituted to encourage victims to come forward who might otherwise not due to worries about ending a soldier’s career.
    And Fort Bragg is not an island when it comes to its handling of abuse. Hill said that when a child abuse report is made, the Cumberland County Child Protective Services is notified immediately about every case and is allowed free access to the family if they live on post.
    One of the civilians the military deals with in cases that need off-post attention is Lyndelia Wynn, director of the county’s Family violence program.
    Wynn said the county provides “safe houses” for the wives and children of military personnel, in addition to the general public, who are the suspected victims of abuse.
And men.
    “People don’t think about it,” said Wynn, “but men are abused too.” 
    Wynn says her department services about 500 cases per year and that the majority of on-base abuse cases are handled by a victim advocate at Fort Bragg. She says that it’s hard to give statistics because there are so many other programs in the county that people will turn to, as well as seeking refuge with relatives or their church.
    She also says it’s impossible to pick out trends as to what time of the year abuse is most likely to occur.
    “One month you think you’ll be extremely busy it will turn out to be a slow month,’ said Wynn. “And then what you think will be slow months are busy. There’s no set pattern of when it will happen or who it will affect.”
    And certainly, no smoking gun pointing at Fort Bragg as a hotbed of abuse.

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