To Tell or Not to Tell

By Jim Miller

A recent survey of women on active military duty found that 25 percent had personally experienced domestic violence during military service. And while many of those surveyed supported a Department of Defense policy requiring health care providers to report evidence of domestic abuse, many others feared the outcome.

In a study published in Military Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing researchers Jacquelyn Campbell, RN, PhD and Joan Kub, RN, PhD surveyed a randomly selected group of active duty military women and found that less than half thought the abuse should be reported to the commanding officer. Those who had been abused were the most likely to disagree with reporting.

Although most of the women surveyed saw many benefits to routine screening, including making it easier for abused women to get help, some also feared that screening accompanied by mandatory reporting put women at more risk for being hurt. Many worried that mandatory reporting would have a negative effect on the careers of both the woman and her partner, and make it less likely that women would disclose abuse.

Campbell believes the ambivalent and conflicting views reflect that active duty military women “fully appreciate the reality of their competing personal and professional priorities. They felt strongly that they ought to be able to control the reporting process.” Campbell also reports that since the article was written, the military’s policies have changed. “Today military women can choose whether or not domestic violence information is reported to military authorities,” she says.

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