Crime now classified as separate under new law


WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The Defense Authorization Act was signed into law in August 2018 by President Donald Trump making domestic violence its own specific crime separate from assault or battery for the first time ever under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Family Advocacy clinic’s mission at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is to build healthy Air Force communities by developing, implementing, and evaluating policies and programs to prevent, intervene in, and treat child and intimate partner maltreatment.

The clinic is located in the Wright-Patt Medical Center and is overseen by 1st Lt. Danielle Dockery, WPAFB Family Advocacy officer.

Dockery would like to educate the base on Family Advocacy, changes in the law, and the seriousness of the crime of domestic violence.

“Preventing domestic violence is critical to our national security,” said Dockery. “Domestic violence degrades our military readiness by impairing our service member’s ability to focus on the mission of fly, fight, and win. Family Advocacy wants to educate the population about domestic violence identification and prevention, resources that are available, and support for survivors of these crimes. Family Advocacy exists to help strengthen families and intimate partner relationships.”

“Domestic violence is not just physical violence but includes emotional abuse such as bullying, threating, humiliation, stalking, manipulation, coercion, or segregation,” Dockery added.

Domestic violence impacts both women and men, no matter a person’s demographics.

Airmen can have some of the most stressful jobs and deploy to some of the most dangerous parts of the globe. They can be away from their families for months and even years. And because of this, their stress levels can be high.

“Family Advocacy is a resource that Airmen and their families can use,” stated Beverly Knight Stukenborg, Family Advocacy outreach manager. “Our outreach programs teach, train and educate military members on prevention and the seriousness of the crime of domestic violence.”

In the past, the military has prosecuted domestic violence crimes using more general categories like simple assault, according to Dockery. These charges have severe penalties for the accused in the military judicial system such as confinement, forfeiture of pay, reduction of rank and even separation from military service.

Convictions under the classification of domestic violence in the civilian justice system trigger certain restrictions such as protection orders and firearm purchase restrictions.

Since the military did not previously distinguish between domestic violence and assault the record keeping was looked at differently. Military and civilian authorities do not always speak the same language and certain guarantees can be lost once a person is discharged from the service.

Dockery noted that the “The military and civilian authorities will start to communicate regarding domestic violence for further restrictions such as firearm purchases and protection orders. It is hoped that eliminating this loop hole will help prevent future violent crimes.”

“Victims do not have to walk this road alone,” said Juanita Rollins-Ecton, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base domestic abuse victim advocate. “Victim advocacy provides crisis intervention, safety plans, referrals to chaplains, military protection orders and civilian protection orders.”

Upon receiving a domestic abuse allegation, commanders refer the case to the base legal office and the Family Advocacy Program.

The disciplinary action taken in every case depends on the individual circumstances. Judicial punishment may occur when the investigation shows there was a serious incident for which prosecution is appropriate, and this may include domestic violence offenses.

“It is important for families and intimate partners to seek help with Family Advocacy, Military One Source, the chaplain corps or Military Family Life Consultants before it gets too far and a member has crossed that line of domestic violence,” stated Dockery.

For more information contact Family Advocacy at (937) 257-6429.