Sinema, Cornyn Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reduce Domestic Violence in the Military

Nov 19, 2020

Senators’ bill improves education and treatment of 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 Domestic 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.
“Domestic violence survivors in the military deserve our full support as they rebuild and recover, and we owe it to them to ensure perpetrators are held accountable. Our bipartisan bill empowers 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.”
“At NRCDV we know that domestic violence is preventable. We also know that survivors of violence in the military face unique circumstances that compound their vulnerability and increase barriers to safety and healing. We applaud this effort to ensure that military servicemembers receive the specialized services they need and prevent violence before it ever occurs,” said the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV).
“Far too often, service members and their family members do not seek help when dealing with domestic violence, resulting in serious consequences that could have been prevented,” said Jennifer Dane, Air Force veteran and interim executive director of the Modern Military Association of America. “Our military families deserve better, and it’s critical that we take action to stop the escalation of violence through earlier education, prevention, and treatment. We applaud Senators Sinema and Cornyn for their leadership on this, and we urge Congress to pass this important legislation.”
“Protect Our Defenders applauds Senators Sinema and Cornyn for spearheading the Military Domestic Violence Prevention Act. For too long the military has ignored or not properly addressed intimate partner violence, offering inadequate resources and anemic forms of assistance. The Military Domestic Violence Prevention Act would bolster the Family Advocacy Program, ensuring that it is more accessible to those who are in need, while improving upon its provisions,” said Colonel Ret. Don Christensen, President of Protect Our Defenders.

Military servicemembers experience unique circumstances that make them especially at-risk for intimate partner violence, including multiple deployments, frequent relocations, and financial stress. In 2020, two appallingly similar events took place where U.S. servicemembers were murdered by their peers. Before their tragic deaths, the victims told friends and family that they believed their safety was threatened. However, neither had filed an official report. 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 Domestic 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 instillation FAP programs on best practices for organizing and coordinating with community resources.
Sinema and Cornyn’s bipartisan Military Domestic Violence Prevention Act is supported by Protect Our Defenders and the Modern Military Association of America.