By Nicole Sotelo
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
This Veterans Day should be a time to connect the dots between warfare and domestic violence, says Nicole Sotelo. Military families suffer much higher levels of family violence as traumatized soldiers bring the battlefield home.
(WOMENSENEWS)--This Veteran's Day, if we are serious about supporting our returned military and their families, then we must start by declaring peace in Iraq. The longer we are at war, the more violence we will see on U.S. soil in the form of domestic violence.
Friends and families of returning U.S. soldiers know that many veterans bring the war home with them in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder, leading to an extraordinary number of domestic violence cases.
It's the principle of the Golden Rule in action. The United States is giving and therefore getting violence in return. The battlefields of Iraq become the battlefields in our homes and neighborhoods in the shape of domestic violence.
When Veterans Day rolls around Nov. 11, let's connect the dots between what our soldiers are witnessing and experiencing beyond our immediate field of vision and how that afflicts the most intimate circles in our own society.
Let's take it as a time to reflect: A war doesn't end on the battlefield, it comes home and invades our living rooms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, arises when a person has been exposed to violence and the constant threat of death. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, emotional changes and, very often, the unleashing of domestic violence. Being in a war zone naturally exposes people to violence and can lead to psychological injury that can result in PTSD.
While a number of Americans may recall the four wives who were murdered by their military spouses within a six-week period at Fort Bragg near the beginning of the Afghanistan invasion, this only caught media attention because the murders took place in one location within a limited time frame.
But this family violence is common and pervasive.
While many U.S. military families, of course, are as happy as any others, studies indicate that military families have a domestic violence rate three to five times higher than the general U.S. population.
This finding goes beyond the U.S. military. It pertains in any situation of internal or international violent conflict.
Recent studies from various global conflicts point to a correlation between the rise of war and increased levels of domestic and interpersonal violence. The increase of interpersonal violence is not only limited to wartime, but is also seen in the build-up to war and in its aftermath.
In the majority of cases, this war-correlated violence targets women and children and may include physical, emotional and sexual abuse. It is still unclear exactly how much of this violence occurs: interpersonal violence is known to be underreported and understudied, especially during wartime.
Nonetheless, the emerging statistics are horrifying--see below--and should prompt international cooperation for a peaceful end to the war in Iraq and other conflicts and the deployment of support services.
Recent reports from Congo reveal a country in civil tumult and an epidemic of rapes that are part of the violence. Last year the United Nations repor