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    Florida National Guard chaplains train to combat domestic violence

    Florida National Guard chaplains train to combat domestic violence

    Photo By Ching Oettel | The chaplains attending a week-long training aimed at fine-tuning the pastoral...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Carmen Fleischmann 

    Florida National Guard Public Affairs Office

    ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (July 28, 2016) -- Last week chaplains and enlisted chaplain assistants within the Florida National Guard converged on Camp Blanding Joint Training Center for their annual joint chaplain sustainment training. This year was unique to the previous events, as the centerpiece of the training was a joint effort between the chaplain corps, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, and the St. Augustine safety shelter, more commonly known as the Betty Griffin House.
    Florida is the first state to offer this type of training to chaplains, which is focused on fine-tuning the pastoral response to domestic violence.
    “Domestic violence leads to the death of the marriage, the family, causes trauma to the children and cripples our military ranks on all levels of leadership,” said Army Capt. Michelle Lawson, a chaplain with the 927th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, who attended the week-long training.
    On an average day in Florida 2,010 adults and 1,339 children receive domestic violence services from local safety shelters across the state. These services include emergency shelter, legal advocacy, individual and group counseling, safety planning, and transportation. Across all branches of the military, domestic violence prevention has been made a priority. Programs have been created to educate Servicemembers on what constitutes abuse in the household and how to remove themselves from situations.
    Counselors, including chaplains, are available to help. But unfortunately, male victims of domestic violence often remain silent about abuse, fearing they will appear weak or even unbelievable. Army 1st Lt. Barry Wheeler, a chaplain assigned to the rear detachment of 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, admits to keeping silent about the abuse he endured during his previous 15-year marriage.
    Now a survivor of domestic violence, Wheeler said that as a result of this training, he has learned ways to draw from his past experience to reach not only victims of domestic violence but potential abusers as well.
    “I understand a lot of the anger and frustration people in those situations feel, but returning violence with violence isn’t the answer,” said Wheeler.
    Air Force Maj. Rudy Olivo, a chaplain with the 101st Air Operations Group at Tyndall Air Force Base and pastor at Fusion Fitness in Lynn Haven, says he was pleasantly surprised by the well-rounded and engaging training.
    “We’ve been given a lot of skills to help identify and care for those trapped in a cycle of domestic violence,” said Olivo. “This is an important, proactive step by the Florida National Guard. We’re finding more ways to take care of our Soldiers and Airmen.”
    One of the tools in the domestic violence prevention kit is the behavior wheel that can point to potentially dangerous warning signs, such as intimidation, financial control, and using children as weapons. The intent is to recognize these negative behaviors in Soldiers and Airmen before they move further down the road of abuse. Identification can be difficult to recognize at a glance, but through conversation with a chaplain or other trusted source, they can be identified and addressed.
    Olivo continued by saying that victims and abusers, even without ties to religious affiliations often have a burning desire to talk to someone. Since chaplains are 100% confidential, it is a safe place to share information.
    “When someone is hurting, the first and sometimes most important gift someone can receive is listening,” said Olivo.
    Conversations with chaplains are strictly confidential, even to law enforcement. By receiving this in-depth training, they are now armed with ways to develop the personal connection with a victim or abuser and through time, help them on the road to recovery.
    “Soldiers have complete confidentiality to disclose what they’re struggling with to the chaplain and it removed the veil of fear,” said Lawson. “Seeking help and finding your voice takes courage and the chaplains will meet you with compassion and encourage you to step into the light of freedom from abuse,” said Lawson.



    Date Taken: 08.03.2016
    Date Posted: 08.03.2016 19:24
    Story ID: 206003
    Location: ST. AUGUSTINE, FL, US 
    Hometown: LYNN HAVEN, FL, US
    Hometown: ST. AUGUSTINE, FL, US
    Hometown: STARKE, FL, US

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