Leaving a relationship involving domestic violence can be complicated and frightening, especially if one or both partners are in the military. There are, however, many resources available to help.
Victim advocate Tia Tinsley of the Family Advocacy Program at Fort Knox said her main role is providing aid to those in domestic violence situations. Helping leaders have a deeper comprehension of domestic violence and to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship is also key because it allows them to understand the unique issues that victims face within the military.
“One of the first things is to get educated,” said Tinsley. “There are so many obstacles, so (victims) can’t always just leave — especially in the military when you don’t have family nearby, a support system, economic or financial support, or children. There are so many different aspects.”
Victim advocates are professionals trained to support soldiers and adult family members experiencing any form of domestic abuse, whether physical, emotional or both. This can include the threat or use of violence against a partner, intimidation, and verbal or psychological abuse.
Tinsley said her job is simply to listen and offer additional resources without fear of judgement.
“It’s non-clinical. I am not a lawyer,” said Tinsley. “I can help them through the process, but I cannot give legal advice. I have to make sure people understand that.”
Discussing what victims have been experiencing can be difficult, according to Tinsley, but she’s there to help them assess what they’ve been through and how to move forward.
“A big area of mine is safety planning,” said Tinsley. “We figure out what the goal is, how long they have to get there, and what they can do now to get to that point because they maybe can’t leave right then.
“It can get hard when you wait too long because then, they may not have time to plan.”
While Tinsley’s direct line (502-888-5796) is only available for those in the Fort Knox area calling during normal business hours Monday-Friday, the Army domestic violence call center (1-855-827-5796) takes calls 24/7.
“When they call, they’ll get someone who can tell them the local resources, what to do in an emergency, where they can go for a shelter, and how to file a protection order if needed,” said Tinsley. “They’re there if it’s after hours and you need help.”
When reaching out for help, Tinsley said victims have a choice with how they’d like to proceed.
“There are two options for reporting domestic abuse: restricted and unrestricted reporting,” said Tinsley, pointing out one will not trigger an investigation while the other will. “Anyone who needs any additional information can call and talk to me, and I’ll go over things. There are areas where the risk is too high and they can’t have a restricted report.”
For those who may be in a situation where they may feel concerned about going directly through the Army for help, Tinsley said they can still talk to someone any time at the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or by texting “START” to 88788 to initiate a text conversation.
“If someone doesn’t want to talk to the military or want a military advocate, call the hotline,” said Tinsley. “This number is not military-specific; it’s for anyone.”
Tinsley said victims often worry that if they report abuse, they’ll face new hardships when action is taken against their spouse. There is also assistance in those situations.
“The Transitional Compensation Program helps when someone is separated from the military due to an offense such as abuse,” said Tinsley. “It provides financial assistance every month and allows for victims to maintain medical benefits for up to three years.”
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Tinsley said there will be a “Strike Out Domestic Violence” cosmic bowling event in the Fort Knox Houston Bowling Center Oct. 22 to show support to victims and provide information about the many available resources. Patrons can bowl 11 a.m.-3 p.m., for $4 per game, which includes shoe rental.
Tinsley said by focusing the event on sharing the many ways assistance and education are accessible to the Fort Knox community, she hopes it will have a lasting result.
“There are people that are trained to help; that want to help,” said Tinsley. “That’s why it’s so important to make sure everyone is educated. If they understood more, maybe people would be more willing to come forward.”