Sexual Abuse in Military Families

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Military families often find themselves changing residences frequently. Every move takes the family away from newly-forged neighborhood and community support. They may move away from extended family members as well as changing schools. This increases the reliance of the survivor on the nuclear family unit, from which the abuse might be coming. This transience  increases the likelihood that the family unit becomes the sole source of comfort, safety, and aid, especially for children who may already be shy and withdrawn due to the abuse.

With the family assuming more importance, and other possible sources of support and safety continually changing, the military child has a difficult time asking for help. In addition to isolating the child within the family, frequent moves also make it extremely difficult for anyone else to  notice changes within the child undergoing abuse.

By remaining in the same home and/or neighborhood for several life stages, teachers, friends, other parents, social workers, school guidance counselors, and sports coaches can become close trusted advocates. These support people can observe the child over prolonged periods and will notice deteriorations in their development, social skills, and personalities; all which could easily be missed when the child has recently moved to the area. This is another factor making it easier for the abuser to hide within military families.

Another factor is the esteem granted to military personnel according to the abuser’s rank. I was required to answer the phone, “Lieutenant Colonel’s residence,” and it was schooled into me each time he was promoted that I was to remember his rank. His dress uniform was arrayed with a wide range of colorful bars and badges that I knew to represent his achievements. This added to the incredible power inequality between myself and he….so I never even considered mentioning that he might not be as good a person as his bosses seemed to think he was. I never doubted that they would not believe me, that they would not consider my complaints as valid, and certainly not worth pursuing. Indeed, to blemish that polished aura was one of my greatest fears -- an act that I reasoned might earn harsh punishment.

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About the Author:

Wendy Jensen is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse.

"I want everyone to know that abuse is not just something that happens to you, and then you move on. Abuse, especially at a young age, gets inside of you and changes how you view yourself and your world. It gets in the way of your free expression as your own unique self. Now I speak out, because our stories need to be told. I am a survivor. Together with other survivors we can bring this silent suffering to light, take hands together, bring the abusers out into the open, and stop the harming. It can be done."
- Wendy

Published by SurvivorSpace, an initiative of Zero Abuse Project