Journal of Addiction Medicine and Therapy

Partner Violence in the Military: A Call to Action

Review Article | Open Access

  • 1. Medaille College, USA
  • 2. Enlightened Therapies of Western New York, USA
+ Show More - Show Less
Corresponding Authors
Keith Klostermann, Medaille College, 18 Agassiz Circle, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA

Considerable research exists for the prevalence of intimate partner violence in civilian couples, though the opposite is true for married or cohabitating couples consisting of active duty soldiers or veterans. Since its start, more than 2.5 million United States Military Veterans have served in the Global War on Terror (Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom). The high rates of combat exposure among military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (as high as 90%), and high-profile homicides among military personnel and their intimate partners have led to concern by military and civilians regarding the impact of combat exposure and military member psychological well-being on marital stability and IPV. Military personnel are exposed to unique stressors that can contribute to risk factors associated with increased IPV. Thus far, prevention and treatment programs for military personnel and their families are based off of programs used within the civilian community. Results of the effectiveness of these treatments within the military are discouraging at best. This review examines risk factors of IPV within the military and overviews treatment. Additionally, lack of confidentiality within the military will be examined.


Klostermann K, Mignone T (2019) Partner Violence in the Military: A Call to ActionJ Addict Med Ther 7(1): 1041.


•    Partner violence
•    Military veterans
•    Homicides
•    Domestic violence


Considerable research exists for the prevalence of intimate partner violence in civilian couples, though the opposite is true for married or cohabitating couples consisting of active duty soldiers or veterans. Since its start, more than 2.5 million United States Military Veterans have served in the Global War on Terror [1].The high rates of combat exposure among military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan [2], (as high as 90%; and high-profile homicides among military personnel and their intimate partners [3], have led to concern by military leaders and civilian researchers regarding the impact of combat exposure and military member psychological well-being on marital stability and IPV. Because the military is the second largest employer in the United States with over 1.4 million active duty members and over 1.1 Reservists and National Guard personnel [4], the significance of intimate partner violence cannot be minimized.

Military employment provides institutional benefits including family housing allotments, medical coverage, and stable employment. Yet, economic struggles, time pressures, and job strain are inevitable, as with civilian families. In addition to these factors, military families experience a unique set of stressors on family systems including: frequent transfers to sometimes undesired relocations, separation from immediate and extended family members, uncertainty about future assignments, varying schedules, long hours, strenuous training and physically-demanding jobs, repeated deployments throughout the course of separation, and fears for the military member’s safety [5,6]. Taken as a whole, these factors may be associated with increased likelihood of partner violence due to their strain on military members and their family units. Because service members and their families may be exposed to numerous psychological risks which potentially tax the family system and increase risk for marital instability and related problems [7], increased understanding of these families may be important for prevention and intervention efforts.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a widespread public health concern impacting social, ethnic, and socioeconomic domains and affecting over 40 million individuals at least once during their lifetime. The term “intimate partner violence” encompasses physical and sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression by a present or prior intimate partner (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2016). Among the various negative implications for partners and families are economic, emotional, physical, and social consequences; this is especially worrisome considering the stressors experienced by military families discussed above [8]


There has surprisingly been little research on risk factors for IPV within military personnel. Most of the available research has focused on civilian couples. While some of these risk factors may overlap, military personnel are exposed to unique stressors that may contribute to incidents of IPV [9]. In fact, many military personnel have been exposed to high levels of stress over the past 15 years as a result of the global War on Terror [10]. There is some initial evidence that other military specific variables might also be important factors to consider in moderating and/ or mediating IPV, for example, longer periods of deployment increase the risk of more severe forms of IPV within 1-year of post-deployment [9].

Researchers Rodrigues et al., sought to review and synthesize the available research on risk factors of IPV within the military. Results of their study indicated that PTSD is an important link between trauma-related factors, for example, combat exposure as well as IPV. More severe symptoms of IPV may also be associated with depression, hyperarousal, quantity of alcohol use, and experiencing abuse or maltreatment as a child [9,10]. Alcohol use is another risk factor often present in more severe forms of violence [10]. Smither-Marek et al., conducted a meta-analysis to see if risk factors differ between civilian and military couples and found important gaps in the research agenda, with more focus on active duty males than females. Variable results have been found regarding the effect of deployment as a risk factor for IPV. However, it can be concluded that there is a small, but significant increase in self-reported severe spousal aggression in U.S Army soldiers 1-year post deployment [10]. Relational problems are also a risk factor for IPV in military samples, with newer marriages or relationships increasingly the likelihood that IPV will occur [10].

Examination of risk markers for IPV among the military male population compared to the civilian male population show there are more similarities than differences in strength of risk factors for IPV between male civilian and male military personnel [10]. There may be factors at the contextual level that will attribute to group differences. It is clear that more research is needed in the area of IPV risk factors for military personnel particularly among female soldiers and veterans.


Treatment should focus on the individual variables that may have led to IPV. For example, PTSD is a risk factor for IPV, and should be explicitly addressed during treatment. There are several routes of treatment that are effective for IPV. Entering therapy (individual or couples) prior to active duty, during active duty (nonmilitary) partner, and post active duty is highly recommended to decrease the chance of IPV or if IPV is present, to work towards eliminating maladaptive behaviors and learning healthier ways to resolve conflict [11]. Evidence shows that service members who experience deployment are at risk for lower relationship satisfaction, and high levels of separation or divorce. Implementing relationship-focused prevention and treatments for this group can decrease the likelihood of IPV starting in the first place [12].

Developing effective prevention and treatment programs for military members and their families is extremely important considering the high stress military members have been exposed to over the past 15 years [10]. The United States Department of Defense (DOD) has allocated funds and resources towards prevention and treatment programs for military members and their families [10]. Most of these programs are based on programs offered in the general community. However, in order for these programs to be successful, they must take into account the unique risk factors for IPV in the military. Programs should then be adapted to the unique risk factors that military personnel experience. Unfortunately, research on the availability and effect of IPV treatment programs for military personnel is limited [9].

Individual or couples therapy (depending on the severity of violence) focused on relationship stability, healthy conflict resolution, and clear communication prior to active duty, during active duty (non-military partner), and post-duty is currently recommended to lessen the chance of the development of IPV [11]. The challenge for researchers and clinicians is in adapting current effective treatments for IPV in civilian populations for use with members of the military, with particular attention paid to the uniqueness of working with active duty and veteran populations. Treatment may involve providing psychoeducation, offering support/resources, and recommending peer support groups [11].

Although individual-based treatment is the most common modality used, couples therapy has been found to be equally to more effective for treating couples in which the violence is bidirectional, mild, and not being used as a form of power and control [13]. This format of treatment teaches partners important skills to solve problems, manage anger, and resolve conflict [11].


Reports of suspected domestic violence are expected of all military personnel (except chaplains), regardless of how the suspicions arise or whether the victim wants this information to be communicated to the command and others. However, many victims are reluctant to report incidents due to fear of negative career consequences for their partner, particularly since the person notified of the violence is considered the person’s boss [8]. In addition, there may also be career implications for the perpetrator if he or she is convicted of a domestic-violence related offense with consequences ranging from reassignment to discharge. Relatedly, criminal conviction of even a misdemeanor involving IPV can end a military career and impact individuals’ ability to possess firearms. Finally, higher ranking active duty females may be reluctant to report partner abuse out of fear over the stigma attached to being perceived as a victim and the professional and career implications of this decision. This may also hold true for male victims of female batterers; men may be reluctant to report partner violent episodes due to fear of negative perception. Along these lines, the results of two recent studies revealed that among persons diagnosed with PTSD, many will not engage in treatment because of the perceived stigma attached to the mental health process [14]. These results seem to provide evidence that there is a strong stigma attached to help-seeking behavior


Partner violence is a tremendous public health concern. Given the unique stressors associated with military service (deployment, financial and emotional strain, trauma, etc.), active duty and veteran populations are at increased risk for partner-violent behavior. Moreover, institutional barriers may also serve to limit the likelihood of help-seeking behaviors because of threat of reprisal, negative stereotype around seeking help, or potential negative career consequences to the perpetrator. Further study is needed to determine how to best engage those in need of services as well as to identify specific treatments which may be helpful.


1. Slone LB, Pomerantz AS, Friedman MJ. Vermont: A case history for supporting National Guard troops and their families. Psychiatric Annals. 2009; 39: 89-95.

2. Hoge CW, Castro CA, Messer SC, McGurk D, Cotting DI, Koffman RL. Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems, and barriers to care. NEJM. 2004; 351: 13-22.

3. Tinney G, Gerlock AA. Intimate partner violence, military personnel, veterans, and their families. Special Issue: Military Families and the Family Court. 2014; 52: 400-416.

4. United States Census Bureau. National security and veteran’s affairs: Military personnel and expenditures. Washington, DC: United States Census Bureau. 2009.

5. Burrell LM, Adams GA, Durand DB, Castro CA. The impact of military lifestyle demands on well-being, army, and family outcomes. Armed Forces and Society. 2006; 33, 43-58.

6. Nola GMD. Stressors afflicting families during military deployment. Military Medicine. 2008; 173: 5-7.

7. Bell NS, Harford TC, Fuchs CH, McCarroll JE, Schwartz CE. Spouse abuse and alcohol problems among, White, African American, and Hispanic U.S. Army soldiers. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006; 30: 1721-1733.

8. Jones AD. Intimate partner violence in military couples: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 2012; 17: 147-157.

9. Rodriques AE, Funderburk JS, Keating NL, Maisto SA. A methodological review of intimate partner violence in the military: where do we go from here? Trauma Violence Abuse. 2015; 16: 231-240.

10. Smith-Marek EN, Cafferky B, Dominguez MM, Spencer C, Van K, Stith SM, et al. Military/civilian risk markers for physical intimate partner violence: a meta-analysis. Violence Vict. 2016; 31: 787-818.

11. Mignone T, ?Papagni E, Mahadeo M, Klostermann K, Jones RA. PTSD and intimate partner violence: Clinical considerations and treatment options. J Addict Medicined Therapeutic Sci. 2017; 3: 1-6.

12. Taft CT, Howard J, Monson CM, Walling SM, Resick PA, et al. “Strength at home” intervention to prevent conflict and violence in military couples: pilot findings. Partner Abuse. 2014; 5: 41-56.

13. LaTaillade JJ, Epstein NB, Werlinich CA. Conjoint treatment of intimate partner violence: a cognitive behavioral approach. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly. 2006; 20: 393-410.

14. Pietrzak RH, Johnson DC, Goldstein M, Malley JC, Southwick SM. Perceived stigma and barriers to mental health care utilization among OER-OIF veterans. Psychiatr Serv. 2009; 60, 1118-1122.

Cite this article: Klostermann K, Mignone T (2019) Partner Violence in the Military: A Call to ActionJ Addict Med Ther 7(1): 1041.

Received : 05 Feb 2019
Accepted : 28 Feb 2019
Published : 06 Mar 2019
Annals of Otolaryngology and Rhinology
ISSN : 2379-948X
Launched : 2014
JSM Schizophrenia
Launched : 2016
Journal of Nausea
Launched : 2020
JSM Internal Medicine
Launched : 2016
JSM Hepatitis
Launched : 2016
JSM Oro Facial Surgeries
ISSN : 2578-3211
Launched : 2016
Journal of Human Nutrition and Food Science
ISSN : 2333-6706
Launched : 2013
JSM Regenerative Medicine and Bioengineering
ISSN : 2379-0490
Launched : 2013
JSM Spine
ISSN : 2578-3181
Launched : 2016
Archives of Palliative Care
ISSN : 2573-1165
Launched : 2016
JSM Nutritional Disorders
ISSN : 2578-3203
Launched : 2017
Annals of Neurodegenerative Disorders
ISSN : 2476-2032
Launched : 2016
Journal of Fever
ISSN : 2641-7782
Launched : 2017
JSM Bone Marrow Research
ISSN : 2578-3351
Launched : 2016
JSM Mathematics and Statistics
ISSN : 2578-3173
Launched : 2014
Journal of Autoimmunity and Research
ISSN : 2573-1173
Launched : 2014
JSM Arthritis
ISSN : 2475-9155
Launched : 2016
JSM Head and Neck Cancer-Cases and Reviews
ISSN : 2573-1610
Launched : 2016
JSM General Surgery Cases and Images
ISSN : 2573-1564
Launched : 2016
JSM Anatomy and Physiology
ISSN : 2573-1262
Launched : 2016
JSM Dental Surgery
ISSN : 2573-1548
Launched : 2016
Annals of Emergency Surgery
ISSN : 2573-1017
Launched : 2016
Annals of Mens Health and Wellness
ISSN : 2641-7707
Launched : 2017
Journal of Preventive Medicine and Health Care
ISSN : 2576-0084
Launched : 2018
Journal of Chronic Diseases and Management
ISSN : 2573-1300
Launched : 2016
Annals of Vaccines and Immunization
ISSN : 2378-9379
Launched : 2014
JSM Heart Surgery Cases and Images
ISSN : 2578-3157
Launched : 2016
Annals of Reproductive Medicine and Treatment
ISSN : 2573-1092
Launched : 2016
JSM Brain Science
ISSN : 2573-1289
Launched : 2016
JSM Biomarkers
ISSN : 2578-3815
Launched : 2014
JSM Biology
ISSN : 2475-9392
Launched : 2016
Archives of Stem Cell and Research
ISSN : 2578-3580
Launched : 2014
Annals of Clinical and Medical Microbiology
ISSN : 2578-3629
Launched : 2014
JSM Pediatric Surgery
ISSN : 2578-3149
Launched : 2017
Journal of Memory Disorder and Rehabilitation
ISSN : 2578-319X
Launched : 2016
JSM Tropical Medicine and Research
ISSN : 2578-3165
Launched : 2016
JSM Head and Face Medicine
ISSN : 2578-3793
Launched : 2016
JSM Cardiothoracic Surgery
ISSN : 2573-1297
Launched : 2016
JSM Bone and Joint Diseases
ISSN : 2578-3351
Launched : 2017
JSM Bioavailability and Bioequivalence
ISSN : 2641-7812
Launched : 2017
JSM Atherosclerosis
ISSN : 2573-1270
Launched : 2016
Journal of Genitourinary Disorders
ISSN : 2641-7790
Launched : 2017
Journal of Fractures and Sprains
ISSN : 2578-3831
Launched : 2016
Journal of Autism and Epilepsy
ISSN : 2641-7774
Launched : 2016
Annals of Marine Biology and Research
ISSN : 2573-105X
Launched : 2014
JSM Health Education & Primary Health Care
ISSN : 2578-3777
Launched : 2016
JSM Communication Disorders
ISSN : 2578-3807
Launched : 2016
Annals of Musculoskeletal Disorders
ISSN : 2578-3599
Launched : 2016
Annals of Virology and Research
ISSN : 2573-1122
Launched : 2014
JSM Renal Medicine
ISSN : 2573-1637
Launched : 2016
Journal of Muscle Health
ISSN : 2578-3823
Launched : 2016
JSM Genetics and Genomics
ISSN : 2334-1823
Launched : 2013
JSM Anxiety and Depression
ISSN : 2475-9139
Launched : 2016
Clinical Journal of Heart Diseases
ISSN : 2641-7766
Launched : 2016
Annals of Medicinal Chemistry and Research
ISSN : 2378-9336
Launched : 2014
JSM Pain and Management
ISSN : 2578-3378
Launched : 2016
JSM Women's Health
ISSN : 2578-3696
Launched : 2016
Clinical Research in HIV or AIDS
ISSN : 2374-0094
Launched : 2013
Journal of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity
ISSN : 2333-6692
Launched : 2013
Journal of Substance Abuse and Alcoholism
ISSN : 2373-9363
Launched : 2013
JSM Neurosurgery and Spine
ISSN : 2373-9479
Launched : 2013
Journal of Liver and Clinical Research
ISSN : 2379-0830
Launched : 2014
Journal of Drug Design and Research
ISSN : 2379-089X
Launched : 2014
JSM Clinical Oncology and Research
ISSN : 2373-938X
Launched : 2013
JSM Bioinformatics, Genomics and Proteomics
ISSN : 2576-1102
Launched : 2014
JSM Chemistry
ISSN : 2334-1831
Launched : 2013
Journal of Trauma and Care
ISSN : 2573-1246
Launched : 2014
JSM Surgical Oncology and Research
ISSN : 2578-3688
Launched : 2016
Annals of Food Processing and Preservation
ISSN : 2573-1033
Launched : 2016
Journal of Radiology and Radiation Therapy
ISSN : 2333-7095
Launched : 2013
JSM Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
ISSN : 2578-3572
Launched : 2016
Annals of Clinical Pathology
ISSN : 2373-9282
Launched : 2013
Annals of Cardiovascular Diseases
ISSN : 2641-7731
Launched : 2016
Journal of Behavior
ISSN : 2576-0076
Launched : 2016
Annals of Clinical and Experimental Metabolism
ISSN : 2572-2492
Launched : 2016
Clinical Research in Infectious Diseases
ISSN : 2379-0636
Launched : 2013
JSM Microbiology
ISSN : 2333-6455
Launched : 2013
Journal of Urology and Research
ISSN : 2379-951X
Launched : 2014
Journal of Family Medicine and Community Health
ISSN : 2379-0547
Launched : 2013
Annals of Pregnancy and Care
ISSN : 2578-336X
Launched : 2017
JSM Cell and Developmental Biology
ISSN : 2379-061X
Launched : 2013
Annals of Aquaculture and Research
ISSN : 2379-0881
Launched : 2014
Clinical Research in Pulmonology
ISSN : 2333-6625
Launched : 2013
Journal of Immunology and Clinical Research
ISSN : 2333-6714
Launched : 2013
Annals of Forensic Research and Analysis
ISSN : 2378-9476
Launched : 2014
JSM Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
ISSN : 2333-7109
Launched : 2013
Annals of Breast Cancer Research
ISSN : 2641-7685
Launched : 2016
Annals of Gerontology and Geriatric Research
ISSN : 2378-9409
Launched : 2014
Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders
ISSN : 2379-0822
Launched : 2014
JSM Burns and Trauma
ISSN : 2475-9406
Launched : 2016
Chemical Engineering and Process Techniques
ISSN : 2333-6633
Launched : 2013
Annals of Clinical Cytology and Pathology
ISSN : 2475-9430
Launched : 2014
JSM Allergy and Asthma
ISSN : 2573-1254
Launched : 2016
Journal of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
ISSN : 2334-2307
Launched : 2013
Annals of Sports Medicine and Research
ISSN : 2379-0571
Launched : 2014
JSM Sexual Medicine
ISSN : 2578-3718
Launched : 2016
Annals of Vascular Medicine and Research
ISSN : 2378-9344
Launched : 2014
JSM Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering
ISSN : 2333-7117
Launched : 2013
Journal of Hematology and Transfusion
ISSN : 2333-6684
Launched : 2013
JSM Environmental Science and Ecology
ISSN : 2333-7141
Launched : 2013
Journal of Cardiology and Clinical Research
ISSN : 2333-6676
Launched : 2013
JSM Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine
ISSN : 2334-1815
Launched : 2013
Journal of Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders
ISSN : 2475-9473
Launched : 2016
JSM Ophthalmology
ISSN : 2333-6447
Launched : 2013
Journal of Pharmacology and Clinical Toxicology
ISSN : 2333-7079
Launched : 2013
Annals of Psychiatry and Mental Health
ISSN : 2374-0124
Launched : 2013
Medical Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
ISSN : 2333-6439
Launched : 2013
Annals of Pediatrics and Child Health
ISSN : 2373-9312
Launched : 2013
JSM Clinical Pharmaceutics
ISSN : 2379-9498
Launched : 2014
JSM Foot and Ankle
ISSN : 2475-9112
Launched : 2016
JSM Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementia
ISSN : 2378-9565
Launched : 2014
Journal of Veterinary Medicine and Research
ISSN : 2378-931X
Launched : 2013
Annals of Public Health and Research
ISSN : 2378-9328
Launched : 2014
Annals of Orthopedics and Rheumatology
ISSN : 2373-9290
Launched : 2013
Journal of Clinical Nephrology and Research
ISSN : 2379-0652
Launched : 2014
Annals of Community Medicine and Practice
ISSN : 2475-9465
Launched : 2014
Annals of Biometrics and Biostatistics
ISSN : 2374-0116
Launched : 2013
JSM Clinical Case Reports
ISSN : 2373-9819
Launched : 2013
Journal of Cancer Biology and Research
ISSN : 2373-9436
Launched : 2013
Journal of Surgery and Transplantation Science
ISSN : 2379-0911
Launched : 2013
Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research
ISSN : 2373-9371
Launched : 2013
JSM Gastroenterology and Hepatology
ISSN : 2373-9487
Launched : 2013
Annals of Nursing and Practice
ISSN : 2379-9501
Launched : 2014
JSM Dentistry
ISSN : 2333-7133
Launched : 2013
Author Information X