Sinema, Cornyn Continue Bipartisan Effort Reducing Domestic Violence in the Military

Mar 23, 2021

Senators’ bill improves education and response to domestic violence in the military, aiming for earlier intervention and increased prevention

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Senator John Cornyn (Texas) introduced the bipartisan Military Family Violence Prevention Act to reduce and prevent domestic violence in the military. 
The Senators’ bill improves the Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program by ensuring the program is properly resourced, improving coordination of the program on installations, and increasing education about the program for servicemembers and families in order to quickly intervene and prevent domestic violence in the military. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House by Congressman Dave Joyce and Congresswoman Ann Kuster.
“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 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.” 
“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 join Senators Sinema and Cornyn, as well as Congresswoman Kuster, in introducing 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.”
“Time and again we hear from survivors of domestic violence in the military that they were not informed of what options were available to them for seeking help or protection against their assailants until it was too late. The Military Family Violence Prevention Act takes a step to address that information gap, and will help ensure that Family Advocacy Program (FAP) has the staffing resources it needs in order to better assist the servicemembers and families it serves. Protect Our Defenders thanks Senators Sinema and Cornyn for their continued support of survivors of domestic violence in the military, and supports the Military Family Violence Prevention Act,” said Adelaide Kahn, Director of Programs and Policy, Protect Our Defenders.
“Stigmas, discrimination, and lack of adequate education, prevention and treatment resources are roadblocks preventing service members and their families from seeking help when dealing with domestic violence,” said Jennifer Dane, Air Force veteran and interim executive director of the Modern Military Association of America — the nation’s largest LGBTQ military and veteran non-profit organization. “Our military families deserve better, and it’s critical that we take action to stop the escalation of violence. We applaud Senators Sinema and Cornyn, as well as House Representatives Joyce and Kuster, for their leadership on this, and we urge Congress to pass this important legislation.”

Military servicemembers experience unique circumstances that make them especially at-risk for intimate partner violence, including multiple deployments, frequent relocations, and financial stress. According to the RAND Corporation, there are multiple reasons why victims may not report domestic violence, including community stigma and fear of retribution from the perpetrator. In 2018, the Department of Defense (DOD) reported nearly 17,000 cases of intimate partner violence, 15 of those ended in a death. Sinema and Cornyn’s bill seeks to right this wrong and prevent domestic violence in the military.
Sinema and Cornyn’s Military Family Violence Prevention Act, improves the Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program (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.  Currently, fewer than 1 in 5 domestic violence survivors self-report to their installation’s FAP. The Senators’ bill aims to fix that issue by creating a pilot program to educate spouses about FAP when they enroll in Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). The bipartisan bill also requires the DOD to produce a report on solutions to encourage restricted reporting and seeks to encourage coordination of resources across DOD programs to increase resiliency and servicemember wellbeing. Additionally, the bill identifies lessons learned that can be shared across installations FAP programs on best practices for organizing and coordinating with community resources.
Sinema and Cornyn’s bipartisan Military Family Violence Prevention Act is supported by Protect Our Defenders and the Modern Military Association of America.