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Abused by a hero: Domestic violence in military relationships

Domestic violence in a relationship is a touchy subject, but one that must be discussed. Huffpost recently spoke with a few strong women who endured and survived physical abuse by men in the military whom the world saw as heroes. 

We've decided to share two of the victims' stories. 


My husband tried to kill me 

One night, my husband tried to kill me. He had a strange look on his face as he approached me in our flat. He said, “The only way you’re leaving here is in a body bag.” He held up a kitchen knife. The rest was a blur. I worked hard trying not to let him near me, running from room to room because the front door and the back doors were locked. I pulled furniture down behind me as I ran, swung at him as he tried to slash me repeatedly with the knife. Finally, I remember waking up on the floor in broken glass and being lifted up by some men. My husband was sitting on the floor holding his nose, blood spurting. He claimed that I assaulted him because his nose was broken in the struggle. He said that I was the one who tried to kill him. I denied it. I made his abuse known to his command. I loved my husband and wanted to save my marriage and the father of our child.

To make a long story short, I was shipped back to the U.S., where I filed for divorce. A week before our divorce was final, my husband killed himself. I never made peace with being let down by his command structure. I was made to feel like this was my fault. My family didn’t believe me. The Navy didn’t believe me. I carry that with me.

– Jennifer, 49


My Soldier needs help

Before my husband came home from a six-month deployment to Iraq, his platoon captain’s wife told me and the other spouses that there might be “issues” within the first 30 days. This was normal, she said, and she would be here for them if we needed her.

He didn’t sleep when he got home, and the only thing that helped was to turn the TV to a blaring volume. He told me, “I’m used to all the bombs going off.” He was drinking heavily almost every day. Sometimes, he’d smoke marijuana.

I knew my husband had a temper, but this was different. One night, he just tore up the house. Our young children were asleep in nearby bedrooms. He was punching holes in all of the walls and I knew I was next when he backed me into a corner, screaming at me just inches from my face.

I ran and locked myself in our bedroom and called the MPs. He screamed through the wall at me that I was a cop-calling bitch. Then he tore the door off the hinges and grabbed me by my arm.

The MPs arrived and took my husband to the police station on base. His platoon sergeant later picked him up and brought him to his house for a “cooling off” period. But he was home the next night. I was scared shitless for him to come home. No charges were ever filed, and no one ever followed up with me.

When you’re a new spouse in the military, you aren’t supposed to be dramatic or create noise — it’ll look bad for your husband. You’re told not to talk about certain things. The repercussions of speaking up were well known: If you ruin your husband’s career, you won’t have money. It was a threat my husband used to prevent me from talking to anyone about the abuse.

My husband was honorably discharged from the military just shy of two years later. At this point, he was a raging alcoholic and regularly called me a cunt and a whore. I tried to get him help from the VA Clinic multiple times. He told them he had PTSD, but the VA rated him as showing 0% PTSD in their evaluation. They said his symptoms weren’t severe enough to warrant help.

While high on cocaine, my husband physically and sexually assaulted me for six hours straight. He strangled me and punched me in the face. I kept thinking about the loaded gun he kept in his car. 

"If you ruin your husband’s career, you won’t have money." It was a threat my husband used to prevent me from talking to anyone about the abuse.

After he finally crashed, I ran out of the house with our daughter, drove as fast as I could to pick up our other two kids and drove cross-country to my parent’s house. This was the final straw. I couldn’t take it anymore. We split up.

Someone commented to me about not leaving my husband because he’s a solider. It doesn’t matter that he’s a soldier. The military failed him and the VA failed him. But the military failed me more. More recently, he walked into the VA clinic and they turned him away again. The next day he came back with a butter knife. A guard shot him in the chest, but he lived. He was trying to kill himself that day. He knew, going in there with a weapon, that he would be killed by the police.

— Cara, 32


Here are some important stats about domestic violence in military relationships according to

2-3: Male combat veterans who suffer from PTSD are two to three times more likely to abuse their female partners than veterans not suffering from PTSD.

1/3: About 33 percent of combat veterans with PTSD report having been aggressive with their intimate partner at least once in the previous year.

9 in 10: About 91 percent of combat veterans with PTSD reported being psychologically aggressive with their intimate partner in the previous year.

Up to 7 in 10: Between 30 and 70 percent of female veterans have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

1/3: Among active duty females, 36 percent report having experienced intimate partner violence during their service.

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