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Third of domestic violence victims in active-duty military families are men

By Russell Cook 2nd Medical Operations Squadron

Army Special Forces Sgt. Casey Gray clearly recalls the day when his fiancée turned violent.

Gray was severely injured in a helicopter crash in early 2011, and was recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He was in a wheelchair, with his arm in a sling and his head covered in bandages.

The couple was at a nearby hotel where she was staying when they got into an argument about money, he said.

"She struck me on the left side of my face where I had skull fractures," Gray said. "I had stitches in my lips and it busted open. She knocked me to the ground and jumped on my back and hit me."

Gray said he feared for his safety as the woman, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a fit body, pounded him with closed fists.

"I crawled and limped through the hotel door and she was like, oh, what are you going to do now?" he said. "I put the chain on the door and she was yelling, let me in, I want to talk to you, but I just called the police."

Gray said he sought counseling and was later diagnosed with a condition known as battered woman syndrome.

Male victims of female offenders account for a full one-third of reports of domestic abuse within active-duty families within the military, Defense Department data shows.

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps cumulatively have averaged nearly 8,000 domestic violence complaints per year over the past five years from families that include at least one active-duty service member. More than 2,500 complaints a year involve male victims and female offenders, according to data maintained by the DOD in its Child Maltreatment and Domestic Abuse Incident Reporting System. Those reports include service members who have a civilian spouse or partner, civilians whose spouse or partner is on active duty, and dual-military couples.

The percentage split among perpetrators, slightly more than one-third females and two-thirds males, has remained remarkably constant for the past decade, even as the yearly totals have fluctuated, according to data provided by defense officials in response to a Military Times request.

The total number of annual reports dipped in the middle years of last decade during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to as low as 6,619 in 2008. However, the annual total has since returned almost to the levels seen in the early years of last decade, the data shows.

While the majority of cases involve female victims, thousands of male victims face a unique challenge in the military community, some experts say.

"There is not much acknowledgment that men in the military can actually be victims," said Denise Hines, a Clark University professor who has studied domestic violence.

Hines said she believes that in the general population about one-quarter of domestic violence incidents involve men as victims, one-quarter involve women as victims and about one-half involve "mutual aggression" in which both the man and the woman are to some degree guilty of abuse.

Many domestic violence victims are reluctant to report abuse of a military member. They fear the repercussions of what it would be to their career. Please do not let this fear stop you from reporting the abuse. Think about it this way, you are worried about his or her life, yet they are not worried about their career, or your safety. You must protect yourself and your family at all times, no matter who the abuser is. To seek help, contact the Family Advocacy Program at 456-6595 or the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate at 751-9118. The Family Advocacy office will provide an array of programs and services to help eliminate the violence or provide guidance and support for spouses or partners who want to be safe or learn how to recognize unhealthy patterns of behavior that may end up in abuse.