Healthy Military Family Systems: Examining Child Abuse and Neglect
Defense Health Board Falls Church United States
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The military family occupies a unique position in the fabric of our Nations defense, contributing to the readiness of the Armed Forces. Threats to the health and integrity of families create threats to the warfighters preparedness to execute the national security mission. Child abuse and neglect CAN is a significant threat to family integrity and readiness and must be addressed as a command and leadership issue in the Department of Defense DoD. CAN and other forms of violence thrive on secrecy. Secrecy is tied to stigma and fear of repercussions, among other factors. The DoD is engaged in ongoing efforts to change the perception that help-seeking is a sign of weakness, particularly in the area of suicide prevention. Similar efforts must be made to change the stigma around seeking help for struggles that lead to child maltreatment and other forms of violence. This approach must include a strong messaging and public awareness campaign. The issue of career repercussions stemming from CAN has been raised as a barrier to help seeking. While sometimes indicated and necessary, particularly in light of the unique military occupational requirements, the potential loss of ones livelihood can also serve as a formidable obstacle to seeking help in challenging and escalating circumstances. The DoD can and must do more to intervene before family issues and risk factors culminate in circumstances that warrant separation. The role of barriers to help-seeking in perpetuating problem behaviors is widely acknowledged. Barriers to help provision which can also act to sustain maladaptive behaviors are less understood. The phenomenon of gaze aversion may be one such barrier to help provision. Runyan defines gaze aversion as turning our heads away from unpleasant topics. Gaze aversion within the context of CAN may contribute to the failure to identify child maltreatment, particularly in equivocal cases, when another more palatable but less likely cause could be cited.
- Sociology and Law