Joyce and Kuster Introduce Bill to Prevent Military Family Violence, Abuse

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced the Military Family Violence Prevention Act. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Senator John Cornyn (TX) introduced the legislation in the Senate. This bipartisan, bicameral bill aims to improve the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Family Advocacy Program (FAP) by ensuring the program is properly resourced, improving coordination of the program on military installations, and increasing education about the program for servicemembers and families in order to quickly intervene and prevent domestic violence and abuse in the military.

“No one should have to experience any form of domestic violence or abuse, especially those who sacrifice so much to serve our country,” said Congressman Dave Joyce. “We can and must do more to foster safe environments for reporting incidents, ensure resources and counseling are accessible to vulnerable individuals, and provide safety for affected service members and their loved ones. I’m proud to introduce this critical legislation and remain committed to working across the aisle to reduce domestic violence and abuse in our military. Those who wear our nation’s uniform, and their families, deserve nothing less.”

“It has been heartbreaking to hear the stories of sexual violence within our Armed Forces and at our military installations,” said Rep. Kuster. “As co-chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, Rep. Joyce and I have heard from countless survivors about truly horrific experiences. While much work remains to rid the military of violence and abuse, it is important to recognize the incredible value of the Family Advocacy Program and ensure it is better utilized. I’m proud to help introduce this legislation to raise awareness about FAP amongst military members and their families and reduce bureaucratic red tape to get survivors the benefits and services they deserve.”

“Domestic violence survivors deserve our full support as they rebuild and recover, and we owe it to them to ensure perpetrators are held accountable. We’re empowering survivors by improving counseling and encouraging reporting on military bases, ensuring the health and safety of everyone in our military communities,” said Senator Sinema.

“Service members who put their lives on the line shouldn’t have to fear reporting domestic violence or face dealing with the resulting trauma alone,” said Senator Cornyn. “In addition to funding education and prevention programs, this legislation would encourage members of the military and their families to seek help while ensuring they have access to the resources they need to heal.”

Military service members experience unique circumstances that make them especially at-risk for intimate partner violence and abuse, including multiple deployments, frequent relocations, and financial stress. In 2018, the DOD reported nearly 17,000 cases of intimate partner violence. Tragically, 15 of those cases ended in a death.

The FAP is responsible for prevention, education and treatment related to domestic abuse in the military. Its mission is to prevent abuse, encourage early identification and prompt reporting, promote victim safety and empowerment for affected service members and their families. The FAP also respond to reports of child abuse and neglect and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. Unfortunately, fewer than one in five survivors of domestic violence or abuse self-report to an installation FAP. A recent report also found that 94% of FAP Office Directors believed more could be done to encourage servicemembers and families to seek help. 

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Improve the FAP by requiring a report on staffing levels to ensure the program is properly resourced, initiating more information sharing and coordination across the services, and increasing awareness efforts to family members. 
  • Create a pilot program to educate spouses about FAP when they enroll in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and require each Service Secretary establish a procedure to inform servicemembers’ families about resources available to prevent violence, abuse and neglect. 
  • Require the DOD Advisory Committee on Women in the Services to produce a report on solutions to encourage restricted reporting.
  • Remove the nondelegable approval authority which requires Service Secretaries to approve Transitional Compensation in exceptional eligibility cases, which provides benefits for spouses/children who have decided to leave their military spouse due to abuse.
  • Encourage coordination of resources across DOD programs to increase resiliency and servicemember wellbeing and deliver one-stop information services. 
  • Identify lessons learned that can be shared across instillation FAP programs on best practices for organizing and coordinating with community resources.

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