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As we come to the end of Domestic Violence month stories of abuse and neglect continue to be observed in our community and in the media. This phenomena still has no known direct cause but we do know there exists many contributing factors that include communication issues, stress and social exposure. Domestic violence affects men and women, adults and children, civilians and Soldiers alike. Incidents related to domestic violence do get reported but there still remain countless others that are not. Military and civilian communities continue to address this social issue and provide resources for families in an effort reduce and prevent the occurrence of Domestic violence.

The Department of Army policy on child and spouse abuse reflects a "prevent, protect and treat" ideation geared towards the prevention, education, intervention and treatment of domestic violence and child abuse in a manner consistent with military and civilian laws. One agency designed as a result of the military's vision is the Ft. Bliss Family Advocacy Program (FAP) located at the Army Community Service, Building 2494, Ricker Rd and at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. 5005 N. Piedras St. El Paso, Texas, on the 11th floor. The Family Advocacy Program (FAP) falls under Army Regulation (AR) 608-18 and is designed to interrupt the cycle of abuse by identifying it as early as possible and providing treatment for affected family members. The Family Advocacy Program works to promote public awareness on and off the installation, and coordinate professional intervention at all levels within the civilian and military communities. Agencies FAP coordinates with include Commanders, Family Life Chaplains, the District Attorney's Office, the Center Against Family Violence, the Child Crisis Center, Child Protective Services, Military and El Paso police departments, and various social and community health agencies. The program serves active duty service members and their families regardless of their branch of service.

The Fort Bliss Family Advocacy Program provides prevention and education services in the form of annual domestic violence awareness and the annual sexual assault prevention and awareness classes for every military member and law enforcement agency on the installation. It also provides the annual child abuse detection and awareness classes for child care agencies and providers, military law enforcement agencies, and medical personnel. The military has two available reporting options for victims of domestic violence, restricted and unrestricted reporting. Under ther restricted reporting option victims should contact the installation Family Advocacy Program manager (FAPM), a Victim Advocate (VA) in ACS, or anyone that works in / or for William Beaumont Army Medical Center. Once reported the FAPM assigns a specific case number to the case, medical and mental health services are initiated and a victim advocate is assigned. Under the restricted reporting option law enforcement nor the Chain of Command are notified. For the unrestricted reporting option the same people (FAPM< VA and MTF personnel) are contacted, and law enforcement and the chain of command will be notified. The military also has the restricted and unrestricted reporting options for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program. Under the unrestricted option for both programs protective orders, no contact orders and crime victim's compensation programs can be administered. Under both reporting options victims will have a victim advocate assigned who will assist in ensuring the family receives needed support services.

The Family Advocacy Program does not stop there...

Family Advocacy also provides classes to meet the needs of our military and civilian communities. Soldiers, civilians and their families may also attend classes that focus on issues related to parenting and relationships. These include "Baby Care 101", "Expectant Sibling", Transparenting, Marriage / Couples classes, and support groups. FAP provides playgroups, car seat loaner / child safety services, stress management and puppet shows designed to provide our military and civilian communities with valuable resources and education.

Playgroups, parenting and home visitation fall under the New Parent Support Program and where their primary focus are the ages 0 through 3. Activities under this program are developmentally appropriate and engage both parents / caregivers and the children. The Car Seat Loaner / Child Safety programs are designed to provide the military community with safety seats ensuring children are properly restrained on and off the installation. Active duty service members, DoD civilians, veterans and retirees, and their family members may request an infant carrier, car seat, booster, or special needs seat for approximately 3 months at no cost to them. Individuals can also come by Family Advocacy to have their car seats inspected for safety and proper installation by one of Family Advocacy's child restraint system technicians.

To continue with programs offered FAP offers life skills classes that include stress management, puppet shows, and marriage / couples relationship and communication classes. With stress the military understands that it can be a contributing factor in abuse incidents. The stress management program focuses on prevention through the reduction of stress that occurs due to our personalities, lifestyles, and how we cope with every day and extraordinary events. Stress management participants voluntarily come from the Fort Bliss and El Paso communities to gain insight in controlling stress and reducing the health risks and other risks associated with abuse. The puppet show program addresses the needs of children and is used as a prevention and educational tool. These shows have been performed for local elementary schools, Reserve and National Guard units, family readiness groups (FRGs), and scouting programs. Performance topics include "New Friends" (cerebral palsy and using wheelchairs), "You're Not the Boss of Me" (bullies), "My Parent is Going Away" (deployment), and "Shiner" (physical abuse). Other topics can be performed with sufficient notice. The Marriage / Couples program contains classes for those thinking about marriage, already married and the required class when children are involved in a divorce.

The Fort Bliss Family Advocacy Program is here to support the mission by building stronger families through prevention, education and treatment. All classes are free to those wishing to participate.

Domestic violence is not just a problem for those involved. Domestic violence is not a "private" or "family matter" but a matter for the Fort Bliss and El Paso communities as a whole.