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    Military programs combat domestic violence during COVID-19

    Military programs combat domestic violence during COVID-19

    Photo By Sgt. Erica Earl | Staff members at the Family Advocacy Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.,...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Erica Earl 

    5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   

    JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — The anger and the anxiety can creep up on you. You swore you would always do anything to protect your family or your significant other. You vowed to never let anything hurt them, but after weeks stuck in quarantine in your domicile, with nerves and uncertainty for the future sinking in, you find your patience wearing thin and your temperament tested. You’re one minor misunderstanding away from hurting someone you hold so dear
    Maybe your partner or family member has a history of lashing out and being abusive, and with your workplace and after-hour hobbies that were once your safe haven now stripped away, home has become hell.
    Kristen Brundage, supervisor for the Family Advocacy Program on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., said that in these unprecedented times of being sequestered during the COVID-19 outbreak, there is an increased risk of domestic violence occurring.
    “When our stress goes up, or when we are feeling tension, explosive moments can happen,” Brundage said.
    While buildings on the installation may look closed, she said one thing remains constant, and that is the availability of resources for service members, family members and Department of Defense civilians alike.
    “We are still providing services and still opening cases,” Brundage said.
    Brundage and Karen Fox, the acting Chief of the Ready and Resilient Division for the Family Advocacy Program, said the statistics for domestic violence on JBLM mirror those in the civilian sector in Pierce and King Counties.
    According to a 2019 study for Washington State by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2,915 adult and child victims were seen in shelters across the state in the 24-hour survey period. Also in a single day, people made 490 calls to domestic abuse hotlines in the state.
    Data is still emerging about cases of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brundage said.
    “These are unprecedented times right now,” Brundage said. “We are being isolated in our homes, and for some that means a huge increase in contact with their families, especially military families who may not have had as much time together before.”
    A decrease in in-person training, pauses or changes to military exercises and changes in manning for some units mean service members who may have previously spent ample time away from home are now with their spouses and families longer, learning things about them that they may not have previously known or dealing with changes to communication within the household.
    While Brundage said this can be a positive thing, it can also lead to a buildup of tension.
    She said if someone is in immediate danger, they should call 911.
    If someone is not feeling safe and needs someone to talk to and make plans, and they are not in immediate danger, they can call the SAFE line run by victim advocates 24/7 at 253-966-7233. . This line is also an option if you have a friend, family member or someone in your unit who you know is in an unhealthy situation or relationship, and you are concerned for their safety.
    There is an array of virtual resources for the community before situations escalate to something as serious as abuse and assault.
    The Family Advocacy Program offers online, non-clinical classes such as stress management and courses for new parents.
    There is also a virtual playdate for parents and their young children to interact with one another while regular programming is on hiatus.
    Brundage said while it is important to maintain social distancing physically, disconnecting does not need to happen emotionally, and it is important to keep a close-knit community for both the welfare of families and the health of the children.
    April is Month of the Military Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month. While school is not in session and children are not attending day cares, camps or other facilities outside of the household, Brundage said it’s likely that cases of child abuse are going unnoticed or not being reported to Child Protective Services.
    “In summer, CPS sees the number of cases go down primarily because kids are not in school,” Brundage said. “Teachers are a big referral source.”
    Brundage said the lack of another party to see and monitor kids on a regular basis can pose danger for children in abusive or negligent homes.
    While the Family Advocacy Program is not an investigative entity, it can connect people to the right resources for reporting cases of child abuse, and anyone who has a suspicion of a child in danger should call their office. Brundage added that CPS is still in operation throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
    Brundage said steps to avoid tension within the household should be addressed as soon as they arise to prevent an eruption of emotions or reactions. One way is to have an open discussion with your family, roommate or significant other that normalizes feelings of being stressed or overwhelmed during this time.
    “Everyone is having strong feelings about this, so it can be hard to communicate and listen,” Brundage said. “It’s OK to admit that this is difficult and get through it as a team.”
    Brundage said it is also critical to know yourself and recognize when you are not in a right frame of mind.
    “Going into this, it is important to have a plan for the heat of the moment,” Brundage said. “For example, on a one to 10 scale, with 10 being full-blown rage, it is important to take a step back and gauge your feelings once you are at a five or above.”
    Ways to do this can range from having a safe word, physically removing yourself from the immediate situation and being mindful and respectful of others when they say they need a moment to step away.
    The Family Advocacy Program has also established programs on its website and social media platforms for people who may be experiencing feelings of unease or loneliness while in quarantine. Brundage said that even amongst her own family members, loneliness and feelings of isolation have been themes that have come up in conversations.
    “Humans have a tendency to want to group with other people, and for now we are learning to do that in a satisfying way over the phone and with virtual meet ups and classes,” she said.
    Available online courses and seminars include one for new parents with children under the age of 3, a live language course designed specifically for communicating with your children, courses on promoting healthy relationships and courses on managing stress and anxiety. The classes are open for everyone, not just service members.
    Brundage said the Family Advocacy Program is looking into adding virtual programs geared for high school aged kids and younger service members and is open to new ideas for connecting the community.
    Below are a list of resources for reporting emergencies, finding out about the Family Advocacy Program or getting connected to an advocate:
    24-hour SAFE line: 253-966-7233
    Washington State CPS 24-hour hotline: 866-363-4276
    Family Advocacy main line: 253-963-5901
    Behavioral Health Family Advocacy Program: 253-968-4159
    New parent support line (checked twice daily): 253-967-7409
    Family Advocacy Program email for requesting courses:
    Family Advocacy Program website:
    For specific information on where to find the online courses and seminars mentioned in this article, contact Kristen Brundage at



    Date Taken: 04.17.2020
    Date Posted: 04.17.2020 16:33
    Story ID: 367739
    Location: JBLM, WA, US

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