Domestic Abuse in the Context of the Armed Forces Community

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Week 2020, we have been sharing information and resources on domestic abuse from the perspective of its impact on Armed Forces Families, children, and young people.

Policy & Research Officer, Sarah Rogers writes about domestic abuse/violence within the context of the Armed Forces Community and outlines the most effective methods that should be used to tackle the issue:


The MOD’s ‘No Defence for Abuse’ Strategy states that in the UK approximately 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime and highlights reports by the NSPCC that 1 in 5 children have been exposed to domestic abuse. There is a notable lack of data considering the prevalence of domestic abuse in the AF (Armed Forces) community and there’s no evidence to suggest domestic abuse is a greater or lesser issue in the AF community. However, as the Strategy notes, the AF community is a reflection of wider society and it’s therefore reasonable to assume that domestic abuse affects the AF community to at least the same extent as the rest of society.   

Factors potentially influencing perpetration  

Whilst we don’t know if, or how, the prevalence of domestic abuse differs within the AF community, research does suggest there are a number of factors specific to the AF community which may potentially influence the perpetration of domestic abuse including suffering from PTSD, having had combat exposure, issues around ‘military culture’, and the stress experienced by AF families due to deployment and reintegration. (The literature review by Williamson, E., & Matolcsi, A. (2019) Domestic Violence and abuse (DVA) in Military Families: Improving signposting to specialist support gives a good overview of these issues.)

Potential barriers to seeking help

Research suggests there are a number of potential barriers specific to the AF community that may prevent those experiencing domestic abuse from seeking help. These include:

  • stigma; practical issues relating to concerns around things like schooling,
  • employment and loss of social support; impact on career of both the perpetrator and the victim/survivor
  • concerns around trust and confidentiality in disclosing the abuse to support services linked to the military
  • concerns in accessing military support services that the immediate priority is to the serving person even where the serving person is the perpetrator
  • housing concerns relating to loss of service family accommodation and accessing civilian housing
  • strong sense of community amongst the Armed Forces can make the prospect of leaving the community difficult
  • specific immigration related barriers for Foreign and Commonwealth spouses. (The literature review by Williamson& Matolcsi (2019) again has a good overview of these issues.) 

Key policy – MOD ‘No Defence for Abuse’ Domestic Violence and Abuse Strategy 2018-2023

The key aim of the strategy is to “reduce the prevalence and impact of domestic abuse and increase the safety and wellbeing of all those affected”. The strategy states that it seeks to do this by:

  • raising awareness of domestic abuse across the Defence community
  • creating a culture where domestic abuse is not tolerated and where victims feel safe to report abuse and seek support
  • educating Defence leaders to recognise and tackle domestic abuse in a robust manner
  • providing our people with the skills, knowledge and protocols to further improve our response to domestic abuse
  • ensure that the voice and experience of children and adults affected by domestic abuse shapes the provision of pathways of support
  • providing victims of domestic abuse with access to pathways of support and appropriate interventions
  • providing rehabilitation pathways for perpetrators wherever possible
  • supporting the criminal justice process, especially where MOD or Service police have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute
  • proactively engaging with civilian specialist agencies to support survivors and address perpetrator behaviour to prevent future abuse
  • ensuring that the safety of survivors is paramount
  • providing a safe working environment

The focus of the strategy in working to achieve this is through activities based on the three pillars of prevention, intervention and partnering.

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic abuse/violence, then help is available:

MOD: Where to get help

MOD: Support & guidance

Women’s Aid

The Mankind Initiative