(From left to right) Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall victim advocates Tammy Hutcheson and Jennifer Marsh are trained in crisis intervention. As victim advocates, the duo respond during domestic violence crisis situations.

Victim advocates provide year-round assistance to JBM-HH community

As October ends, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month concludes, it’s important for the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall community to be aware that domestic violence is one of the hardest things a person can go through, according to regain.us.

Some people love their other half so much that they tend to excuse his or her behavior when they shouldn’t. No one deserves to be abused, and no one should stay with an abuser, but sometimes it’s not so easy to just walk away, according to regain.us.

When a victim decides it’s time to reach out for a helping hand, JBM-HH victim advocates are available to assist a person not just during the month, but year-round.

Tammy Hutcheson and Jennifer Marsh are JBM-HH victim advocates. VAs are trained in crisis intervention and they are available to accompany an individual who needs the services provided by the Family Advocacy Program.

For example, if a person calls the installation 24-hour hotline, Marsh said an advocate will answer and respond in person within an hour. Marsh added that if a victim calls the hotline and is not safe, an advocate will notify law enforcement immediately to get him or her to a safe environment. From there, the advocate can accompany the victim to appointments and other locations.

“We can then accompany victims to the hospital, medical appointments, the police station or court,” Marsh said. “We help obtain civilian and military protective orders. We help victims find emergency shelter or leave an abusive situation. We are big into safety planning and prevention, too.”

The JBM-HH Family Advocacy Program provides safety planning and prevention services and its advocates will walk a person through the process and explain which reporting options are available to him or her. The VAs said they are not only available for crisis intervention, but to educate others on domestic violence as well. The duo said they have learned that people do not realize there is more to domestic violence than meets the eye.

“When it comes to teaching about domestic violence, you have to find out what people’s knowledge is for domestic violence,” Hutcheson said. “Usually people believe it is just hitting, cussing or the raising of the voice. Through education, people learn and realize domestic violence covers so many gamuts — financial, spiritual, sexual.”

Marsh pointed out that after educating people about the different forms of domestic violence, individuals will sometimes notice abnormal behavior in their relationships. Some of those behaviors of domestic violence that may not include physical violence might include a partner closing his or her significant other’s bank account, restricting visitation with children, the desire to know a phone password or marital rape.

The victim advocates are aware that domestic violence is a touchy subject and not easy to talk about since talking about family violence is taboo, especially with children, they said. But the duo said it is possible to weave it into conversations. Hutcheson explained that when parents teach children when they’re young, “keep your hands to yourself,” is a way to talk about the taboo subject.

Marsh added that it’s also important to teach children the importance of financial literacy because having to depend on the bread winner is one of the reasons women remain in a domestic violence situation. Finances are a way an abuser tries to control his or her victim, she said.

Hutcheson and Marsh said financial literacy isn’t the only conversation parents should have with their children. The two said parents should talk about what is and isn’t a healthy relationship. JBM-HH offers classes to help reinforce the importance of healthy relationships.

“The Family Life (Program) chaplain is always having something about healthy relationships, and he has date night,” Marsh said. “The Marines have a class on how to avoid dating a jerk. No relationship is perfect, but people need help and advice.”

The VAs said their help also extends to finding resources for counseling, if needed food pantries, referrals to JBM-HH Army Community Service if financial help is needed or finding employment. The New Family Support Program is available for those who might be expecting parents.

“If they take that step … more people will take that step,” Hutcheson said. “If they say, ‘I see red flags and things are escalating — I need help,’ it’s wonderful that they can see it and ask for help because we have resources on the installation and in the local area as well to alleviate that stress.”

The VAs pointed out that domestic violence isn’t relegated to women because in recent years men have come forward and admitted to being abused.

Marsh said about half of her clients are men and they will sometimes wait until there is an extreme or dangerous incident before seeking help.

“(Men) do not come in because they are getting hit,” she said. “They wait until it gets to an extreme level, like when they have been stabbed or shot. They feel more shame than anger.”

Hutcheson and Marsh pointed out that a resource for spouses are other military spouses because they can provide a much-needed support system since they understand the military culture. Spouses also understand what it means to have an identity wrapped around the service member, she said.

“You have to remember,” Hutcheson said, “when the spouse is asked what their name is, they actually will say, ‘my husband is commander so-and-so.’ They identify completely as the wife of a captain or a colonel. They wrap their whole life into this person’s career, so their identity is defined by the identity of the service member.”

Having that identity wrapped around the service member’s career can also breed embarrassment after a domestic violence incident, she said. Marsh added that the abused spouse might believe he or she is being judged by others.

“A lot of times the abuser will isolate the victim from Family and friends,” Marsh said. “(The survivor) may have a feeling of helplessness, lose sense of self, doesn’t have finances and may feel as though they can’t have control of (his or her) own life,” Marsh said.

As October ends, the VAs said it’s vital that the community remains vigilant about the perils of domestic violence and how it impacts the Family.

To contact the victim hotline, call (703) 919-1611. To contact Marsh or Hutcheson, visit Bldg. 201.

By Katrina Wilson