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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 7, 2009) -- October's Army-wide Domestic Abuse Prevention Month will highlight domestic abuse prevention in support of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The 2009 campaign theme, "Make the Right Choice! Act to Prevent Domestic Abuse!" focuses on the power of the "bystander" in preventing and ending domestic abuse.

"Every member of the Army family is potentially an unwitting bystander to the threat of domestic abuse," said Dennis K. Bohannon, director of strategic communication for the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management / Installation Management Command. "This year's focus is on how everyone, not just those directly affected, can play an integral role in domestic abuse prevention."

"The 2009 campaign builds on existing counseling and assistance programs by shifting their focus to helping bystanders know how to recognize domestic abuse, understand how domestic abuse affects us all, and teach them the skills they need to act when necessary," he said.

Every year the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command develops a concept and campaign for Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. This year's concept and campaign are based on research that shows just how powerful bystanders can be in changing accepted norms and behaviors.

In the case of domestic violence, "the bystander sends a powerful message to both the victim and perpetrator by what he or she does. The bystander may be an unwitting actor in the events that unfold, but their behavior can be very important in either validating the perpetrator and the abusive behavior or rejecting both as unacceptable," said Bohannon.

"The concept is very empowering," said Bill Costlow, public affairs director, U.S. Army Installation Management Command. "Few of us will directly experience domestic abuse, but all of us have the power to prevent it."

"Each year's renewed focus helps to draw continuing attention to important issues for our Army family," said Costlow. "The Army is committed to improving quality of life for Army families, and preventing domestic abuse is one way we can do that."

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, domestic abuse includes criminal behavior such as physical assault, sexual abuse, and stalking, as well as noncriminal behavior including emotional, psychological and financial abuse.

Domestic Abuse Prevention Month stresses that domestic abuse is never acceptable, said Bohannon. It is meant to highlight Army leaders' commitment to providing victims with the support and protection they need and deserve, and to hold offenders accountable.

There has been a 34-percent reduction in the number of reported Army domestic abuse cases since 2001, due in part to the Army's continued commitment to increasing awareness of domestic abuse.

Domestic Abuse Awareness Month isn't the Army's only ongoing campaign that focuses on the power of bystanders. The Army's current suicide prevention and sexual harassment and assault response and prevention campaigns also focus on the power of the individual in prevention efforts.

To report domestic abuse or learn about prevention and services, contact the Family Advocacy Program at a local installation or call the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Help is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.