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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 Family Advocacy Program (FAP)?

The Family Advocacy Program (FAP) is the Department of Defense (DoD) program designated to address domestic abuse, child abuse, and child neglect. The FAP works in coordination with key military departments and civilian agencies to prevent abuse, encourage early identification and prompt reporting, promote victim safety and empowerment, and provide appropriate treatment for affected service members and their families.

To find the FAP closest to you, search by zip code or military installation on the Military One Source website.

What happens after the FAP receives a report of abuse?

If you the victim report abuse to the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) and you choose for the report to be restricted, law enforcement and command will not be notified by the FAP and there will not usually be an official investigation of the allegation; there are, however, exceptions in cases of severe risk of immediate harm to you or another person. To see what services the FAP will offer, go to I am experiencing abuse in my relationship. How do I go get help in the military system?

If someone other than the victim, or their medical provider, reports abuse to the FAP, it is considered an unrestricted (non-confidential) report. In this case, FAP clinical providers will talk to the victim and the abuser separately about the incident to determine the risk for further abuse, develop a safety plan, and recommend counseling or treatment options, if appropriate. An FAP counselor will also begin coordinating next steps with the victim’s command or the abuser’s command, and military law enforcement.

Next, information about the report will be presented by the FAP to an Incident Determination Committee (IDC). The IDC is made up of senior command in charge of the installation or garrison, the victim’s command and the abuser’s command, representatives from military law enforcement personnel, representatives of the Staff Judge Advocate, and the FAP. Following the FAP’s presentation of the domestic abuse incident(s), the IDC will vote to determine whether the incident(s) meet the criteria for an abusive act, or failure to act, according to standards set by DoD policy. A team of FAP clinicians will then make recommendations for treatment for the abuser, if appropriate, which could include evidence-based offender treatment programs, psychological services, or both.

Note: The IDC is not a disciplinary or criminal proceeding. It is a clinical process to determine whether an incident of abuse meets the threshold for more rigorous treatment, intervention, support, safety planning, and victim protection.1 A separate but parallel process may also take place involving military law enforcement and the Staff Judge Advocate to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic abuse that involve acts of violence, a threat of violence, or the violation of a protective order.

1 See Department of Defense Manual 6400.01, Volume 3 (FAP: Clinical Case Staff Meeting and Incident Determination Committee), August 11, 2016.

If I report domestic abuse, could my report affect the abuser’s job?

If you make a restricted (confidential) report to the Family Advocacy Program (FAP), this generally will not negatively impact a service member’s career because the report stays within the FAP; however, the report may go beyond the FAP if there is a severe risk of immediate harm to the victim or another person.

Even if an unrestricted (non-confidential) report is made and the abuser’s command is notified, command will typically support service members who stop abusive behavior, follow treatment recommendations, and work to achieve more positive relationships. With FAP assistance and treatment, many service members can make the long-term changes necessary to avoid future abusive behavior and continue a successful military service.

However, service members who fail to stop abusive behavior, refuse to comply with treatment plans, or cause serious injury to a spouse, partner, or family member may face administrative discharge or court martial. These decisions are determined by the service member’s chain of command and the military justice system.