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Legal Information: Federal

Domestic Violence in the Military

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Laws current as of October 9, 2019

What is the military’s response to domestic violence, and how does it differ from the civilian response?

The program that helps families with domestic violence, child abuse, and child neglect within the Department of Defense (DoD) is the Family Advocacy Program (FAP). The FAP works with key military departments and civilian agencies to:

  • prevent abuse;
  • encourage early identification of abuse and prompt reporting;
  • promote victim safety and empowerment; and
  • provide advocacy and appropriate treatment and services for affected service members and their families.

One of the main differences between the military and civilian responses to domestic violence is the authority of the commanding officer when a service member commits abuse. The commanding officer can use judicial, administrative, or other punishments to respond to the reported incident. The commander consults with the Staff Judge Advocate, which is a military lawyer, to make sure the commander is following the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Ultimately, the commander is able to determine whether to charge the service member with an offense and the appropriate punishment or discipline.