Military survivors of intimate partner violence are unprotected and this bill aims to help

Elizabeth Howe
July 24, 2020 - 11:50 am
Domestic Violence

DVIDS

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Survivors of intimate partner violence in the military receive different protection measures than civilians -- and they're not enough, new legislation says. 

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., aims to address the gap between civilian and military protections for survivors of intimate partner violence with new legislation that was also included in the version of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House on Tuesday. 

Specifically, the legislation would create a system of "Military Court Protective Orders" that would comply with the Violence Against Women Act. Currently, the system in place in the military involves protective orders issued by commanders which are often not recognized by civilian law enforcement. The bill's proposed court orders would extend authorization to commanders, survivors and survivor representatives and would provide better protection for those experiencing intimate partner violence. 

Additionally, the bill would establish a Military-Civilian Task Force on Domestic Violence to make recommendations to improve the military’s efforts to prevent and respond to intimate partner violence and mandate that the Department of Defense regularly collect relevant data and report it to Congress. 

Military domestic violence survivors: Congress wants to hear your story

“The military says all the right words when hauled before Congress and we’ve spent millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars to end this scourge, but misogyny continues and perpetrators are more often promoted than prosecuted while compliance is more likely to be rewarded over the courage to speak out in the face of injustice,” Speier said in a statement.

The legislation comes as the family of Airman First Class Natasha Aposhian -- believed to have been killed in a domestic violence incident at Grand Forks Air Force Base in June -- await answers. 

Aposhian was killed on June 1. Her family came forward two days later explaining they believed Aposhian was killed in an incident of domestic violence. She had briefly been in a relationship with Airman First Class Julian Carlos Torres but told her friends and family that she was concerned he may act violently after she ended the relationship. 

Grand Forks airman killed as the result of domestic violence, parents say

Torres allegedly shot Aposhian on June 1. He then shot himself. 

"We’re torn apart by the loss of our daughter to a senseless act of domestic violence," Brian Murray and Megan Aposhian, Natasha’s parents, wrote in a statement on June 3. "Natasha had recently joined the Air Force and was just starting to embark on a career serving her country. It’s a tragedy she won’t get to fulfill her hopes and dreams. We ask that you pray for her, our family and the countless victims of these crimes.”

Weeks later, the Air Force has offered no additional information to Aposhian’s family. 

Family of Grand Forks airman killed in shooting await answers

"I’ve spoken with many military lawyers who tell me that when survivors do come forward, too often the currently issued military protective orders are not respected by civilian law enforcement and fail to offer meaningful protection," Speier said. "This bill would provide better protection for those suffering intimate partner violence while requiring DoD to track and report to Congress these cases so that we have the data needed to identify and cut out the root of this ongoing problem."

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Reach @ECBHowe.

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