By Olivia Rigby
Military domestic violence is, sadly, more of a common occurrence than many may think. In the United States, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have experienced some sort of intimate partner violence, and nearly 20 people a minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. This totals up to about 10 million people a year being abused at the hands of their partner. So how do these numbers apply to domestic violence in the military? Keep reading to learn more about the military domestic violence statistics and resources available to victims in need.

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Military Domestic Violence Statistics

Sadly, military domestic violence statistics point to a bleak outlook. In 2021, the Department of Defense (DoD) reported that there were around 1.195 million active-duty military personnel in total. In a recent five-year study conducted by the military, the DoD recorded around 42,000 cases of domestic violence in the military from the years 2015-2019, but these numbers are, unfortunately, lower than the reality of actual domestic violence occurrences. A large number of domestic violence instances go unreported in the military. A lot of this inaccuracy comes from incomplete reporting on the military’s end. Even though the DoD is required by law to look into any and all domestic violence reports, they often fail to collect all the facts about allegations and often don’t even complete investigations into claims. Many domestic violence victims often already struggle to find the courage to report abuse, but with the DoD’s lack of thorough investigating, reporting makes it even harder for domestic violence victims in the military.

Domestic Violence Military Consequences

So what are the consequences for domestic violence in the military? Can you get kicked out of the military for domestic violence? The answer is: it depends. Victims of domestic violence can file a military or civil protective order against their abuser. A protection order alone is not enough for a military member to be discharged, but a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” is enough to consider a discharge. Additionally, depending on the details of the protection order, the abuser’s rights to a firearm may be taken away. Most punishments for domestic violence in the military are determined by the commanding officer (CO). There have been cases where a CO has issued a letter of reprimand with no other consequences befalling someone accused of domestic violence. This also leads us to another question: Can you join the military with a domestic violence charge? Generally, the answer is no. If you plead guilty to a domestic violence charge, then you are ineligible for service.

Domestic Violence Resources

The military has provided some resources for those in need of help after experiencing domestic violence. The military’s main program for those experiencing abuse while they (or their abuser) are on active duty is the Family Advocacy Program (FAP). The purpose of the FAP is to address domestic abuse, child abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse in the military. The FAP offers reporting resources, abuse prevention, and victim safety. For Veterans experiencing intimate partner violence, the VA has created the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program (IPVAP). Victims of abuse can also find help through healthcare providers and local law enforcement. Additionally, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available for assistance 24/7 at

1 (800) 799−7233


Reporting Military Domestic Violence

There are two types of reporting when it comes to reporting domestic violence in the military: restricted and unrestricted reporting. One type of report offers more anonymity than the other, which can be life-saving for many domestic violence victims. Abuse can be reported through military law enforcement, the FAP, a healthcare provider, or the victim’s/abuser’s chain of command. If you choose to report through the Family Advocacy Program, you can find a local FAP shelter here where a report can be filed. Depending on where you go to file a report, the report can be restricted or unrestricted. (Please note that if you need to file a report but believe your internet usage may be monitored, use safe internet practices to keep your searches private.)

Restricted Reporting

Restricted reporting allows for more anonymity. You can file a restricted report through the FAP or with a healthcare provider. With a restricted report, military law enforcement and command will not be notified, and no official investigation will take place, but you still have full access to the benefits of the Family Advocacy Program. With the FAP, a safety plan can be developed. The only exceptions to this type of reporting are child abuse cases and cases where the victim is in immediate harm. Please note that if you file a report through law enforcement and/or command, it will be unrestricted, meaning little-to-no anonymity.

Unrestricted Reporting

Unrestricted reporting means less anonymity. Law enforcement and command will be notified with an unrestricted report. You can file an unrestricted report through the FAP, a healthcare provider, law enforcement, and command. With an unrestricted report, victims can still benefit from the FAP, and they can also get access to legal services on military installations and may receive some compensation, where applicable. A protective order can also be put in place to keep victims safe.

IPVAP: The VA’s Domestic Violence Resource

IPVAP, or the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program, is the VA’s program for military domestic violence victims. This VA program offers Veterans a wide range of services aimed at helping those who are experiencing intimate partner violence. IPVAP understands that things like military deployment, military injuries, and other events can cause a lot of stress in someone’s life that can negatively impact relationships. Their goal is to help those who have been impacted by military domestic violence. Military domestic violence is a serious issue for thousands of service members. It’s not something to be taken lightly. Though the official numbers may seem low to some people, many victims of domestic violence don’t report their abuse, or their reports are not being thoroughly investigated by the DoD. Even if these reports are not being adequately taken care of, there are still resources available to those experiencing domestic violence in the military and Veterans experiencing domestic violence. FAP and IPVAP are great resources to turn to, as well as local law enforcement or healthcare providers.

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