[Congressional Record Volume 140, Number 63 (Thursday, May 19, 1994)]
[Page S]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[Congressional Record: May 19, 1994]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

                          THE LIVING ROOM WAR

  Mr. COHEN. Mr. President, those of us from States with major military 
installations that have closed or are scheduled to close are painfully 
aware of the economic devastation that the downsizing of the U.S. 
military is having on our States and communities.
  Downsizing defense and closing bases are also wreaking havoc on the 
lives of thousands of servicemen and servicewomen as they face 
uncertainty over the future of their military careers and the financial 
security of their families. As a recent article in Time magazine noted, 
``Soldiers and sailors who once dreamed of a secure, 20-year career and 
a handsome pension now find themselves facing a truncated career, no 
pension and bleak employment prospects in the civilian world.''
  These pressures may be contributing to a staggering increase in the 
number of reported cases of domestic violence within military families, 
which have risen from 27,783 in 1986 to 46,287 last year. The Pentagon 
program for tracking and preventing domestic violence began in 1986 and 
some of the increase may be due to better reporting.
  A recent survey conducted for the Department of the Army revealed, 
according to Time magazine, that each week a family member dies at the 
hands of a relative in uniform, and that spousal abuse is occurring in 
one in every three Army families. Regrettably, members of military 
families are well represented among the thousands of individuals in 
this Nation who are being held hostage in their own homes, plagued by 
physical and emotional abuse.
  The tragedy of domestic abuse is not, of course, new to the military. 
Military families are no more immune to domestic battering than 
civilian families, and they are just as in need of prevention and 
intervention services.
  As communities struggle to deal with the rising tide of crime and 
violence that is sweeping this country, domestic abuse is one aspect of 
this plague that has received and continues to receive too little 
attention. It has only been in the last 20 years that police, 
prosecutors, courts, and society in general have been forced to 
confront an issue that has too long been considered a private family 
  The Department of Defense has recognized the seriousness of domestic 
abuse and is very much aware that it may be growing within the 
military. More importantly, the Pentagon is attempting to confront the 
problem. The Army's Family Advocacy Program, for example, provides 
community education, prevention services, crisis intervention, 
emergency shelter, and counseling for troubled families.
  As the Defense Department implements reductions in force and oversees 
the closure of hundreds of military installations, it must do 
everything within its power to ease the difficult transitions facing 
service members and their families. To the extent this situation is 
exacerbating the problem of domestic violence, DOD must redouble its 
efforts to prevent battering and, when it occurs, effectively help 
those in need.
  Today, I am writing to the heads of each of the military services to 
request an assessment of the scope of the problem and what measures are 
being taken to address it. Specifically, I have asked each to report on 
the following:
  The extent to which the incidence of reported domestic violence has 
increased overall since 1988 and, specifically, at installations being 
  The extent to which the incidence of domestic violence is related to 
disruptions caused by defense cutbacks and reductions in force;
  The steps being taken to ensure that family support services are 
maintained at closing facilities through closure;
  The level and adequacy of resources currently allocated to prevent 
and respond to domestic violence; and
  The measures in place to ensure confidentiality for victims seeking 
  According to press reports, at least some military officials are 
failing to comply with a requirement to notify victims of the impending 
release of their batterers from military prisons, in some cases with 
tragic results. I am, therefore, also asking the services to survey all 
military prisons on the extent to which such notifications are being 
made and to report their findings to the Senate Armed Services 
Committee. In addition, the letters urge that they take all appropriate 
steps to ensure compliance with the notification requirement.
  It is my intention to vigorously pursue these questions with the 
Defense Department in an effort to ensure, first, that effective 
measures are being taken to prevent and reduce the incidence of 
domestic violence among military families; second, that services such 
as counseling and shelter are available to those families in need; and 
third, that military personnel who are committing abuse receive 
appropriate counseling and are subject to appropriate disciplinary 
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the full text of the Time 
magazine article on this issue be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the article was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                          The Living Room War

                           (By Mark Thompson)

       Jeromy Willis, an Air Force enlisted man and ex-Army 
     marksman, had been trained to kill the enemy. But when the 
     cold war ended and his base faced closure and his career 
     began looking less secure and his marriage came under strain, 
     the enemy started looking a lot like his wife Marie. First he 
     tried to kill her with a flaming propane torch. Weeks later 
     he tried to strangle her. She fled to her mother's home in 
     Rhode Island, and the Air Force confined Jeromy to his base 
     in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But when Marie returned 
     there to press charges against her husband, he had somehow 
     learned of her supposedly secret appointment. Outraged that 
     she was ruining his career, Jeromy confronted Marie inside 
     the waiting room of the base legal office early last year. He 
     fired a pawnshop pistol into her chest. As horrified 
     witnesses watched her yellow dress turn crimson, she 
     screamed, ``Jeromy, no!'' And then he fired a second round 
     into her brain.
       Marie Willis became another victim of an alarming increase 
     in domestic violence on America's military bases. The rise in 
     abuse of spouses and children, researchers and the Pentagon 
     believe, may be connected to the painful reduction in U.S. 
     fighting forces following the end of the cold war. In 1986 
     there were 27,783 reported cases of violence in military 
     families; last year there were 46,287. Now, a confidential--
     and unprecedented--Army survey obtained by Time suggests that 
     spousal abuse is occurring in one of every three Army 
     families each year--double the civilian rate. Each week 
     someone dies at the hands of a relative in uniform, and 
     nearly 1,000 formal complaints of injury are lodged against 
     family members in the service. Untold thousands may suffer in 
       Over the past year there has been gory evidence of the 
     home-front carnage. A soldier in Washington state killed his 
     wife, packed her body into a suitcase and threw it off a 
     bridge. In Southern California a Marine who was a hero in the 
     Persian Gulf War shot and killed his newly divorced wife and 
     their five-year-old daughter. In North Carolina an airman 
     hacked his wife to pieces, wrapped her remains in plastic 
     garbage bags and stored them in the refrigerator. In Hawaii a 
     sailor killed his baby daughter, stuffing her into a duffel 
     bag and tossing her into Pearl Harbor. A soldier in Germany, 
     angered at his wayward spouse, decapitated her G.I. lover and 
     placed the severed head atop his wife's nightstand.
       The new Army survey offers an unvarnished and quantifiable 
     look at the problem. ``The rates of marital aggression are 
     considerably higher than anticipated,'' declared the 
     researchers, who have questioned more than 55,000 soldiers at 
     47 bases since 1989, and continue to do so. The growing 
     number of victims seeking help ``is soon likely to exceed 
     treatment resources.'' And the problem isn't restricted to 
     low-level or poorly performing soldiers. ``Often those in the 
     most responsible and stressful positions,'' the report says 
     referring to noncommissioned officers, ``appear to be more 
     likely to be involved in abusive episodes.'' The violence 
     ranges from kicking, biting and punching to attacks with 
     knives and guns.
       The Army's efforts to curb such violence--through 
     counseling and other help--are rarely mandatory. That, says 
     the study, leads to two critical failings: few soldiers take 
     advantage of the help, and the worst abusers don't 
     participate. Researcher Peter Neidig, whose company, 
     Behavioral Science Associates in Stony Brook, New York, is 
     conducting the Army survey, believes similar levels of 
     domestic abuse exist in the other services. While Neidig 
     believes the Army is ahead of the civilian world in 
     confronting the issue, Army officials admit they are only 
     starting to understand the extent of the problem. ``We were 
     being very reactionary,'' explains Delores Johnson, who heads 
     the service's program to combat such abuse. Rather than 
     trying to prevent it, the Army emphasized medical and legal 
     help after the violence occurred. ``We're just beginning to 
     take a look at what prevention means,'' says Johnson. The 
     Army study, which is designed to identify groups at high risk 
     of domestic violence, found evidence that abuse tends to 
     escalate at bases scheduled to shut down. ``We're very 
     interested in that,'' Johnson says, ``because we're in the 
     middle of downsizing.'' Pentagon officials also say their 
     efforts to encourage military families to report such abuse 
     has played a role in the rising number of reported cases.
       But the military is spending only $80 million of the $120 
     million it says it needs this year to fight domestic abuse. 
     That $40 million gap is less than the price of one of the 
     three dozen F/A-18 fighters the Navy is buying in 1994. The 
     shortfall, officials concede, means most of the money will 
     still go toward the medical and legal bills of those already 
     ensnared in domestic terror, instead of focusing on 
       Gail McGinn, a top Pentagon personnel official, says the 
     military family's nomadic existence contributes to the 
     problem. Most move every three years, ripping the military 
     family from the support network of relatives and friends that 
     civilian families count on when times get tough. The long 
     absences of the breadwinner--on lengthy cruises, battlefield 
     exercises or peacekeeping missions-add to familial stress. 
     The military drawdown, from 2.2 million troops in 1987 to 1.5 
     million in 1997, compounds the problem. Soldiers and sailors 
     who once dreamed of a secure, 20-year career and a handsome 
     pension now find themselves facing a truncated career, no 
     pension and bleak employment prospects in the civilian world. 
     ``Everybody is wondering about what their own careers and 
     their own finances will be, and of course, financial issues 
     are major contributors to family violence,'' McGinn says 
     ``There's lot of tension.'' Outside experts point to other 
     factors. Compared with civilian society, the military 
     population is younger and drawn from lower socioeconomic 
     ranks, and consequently more violence prone. Alcohol abuse in 
     relatively high, pay tends to be poor and the military 
     attracts men who have authoritarian tendencies.
       Also boosting the opportunity for such violence is the fact 
     that nearly 58% of the military are married, perhaps the 
     highest proportion in history. According to Pentagon figures, 
     abuse is largely confined to midlevel enlisted personnel like 
     Air Force, Army and Marine sergeants and Navy petty officers. 
     They're old enough to be married and have children--and the 
     resulting debts--but often earn less than $20,000 a year.
       Some military training contributes to a misogynist 
     attitude, says Joan Zorza, director of the National Battered 
     Women's Law Project in New York City. ``A man is criticized 
     by being told he's acting like a woman--a ------ --to 
     humiliate him and make him tougher.'' she says. ``That often 
     translates into seeing women as not being important and 
     therefore easier to oppress.''
       An earlier study had already found a correlation between 
     combat jobs and domestic violence. Troops trained to fight 
     are more likely to batter children than their uniformed 
     colleagues in noncombat jobs, according to a 1979 study of 
     985 cases of child abuse among Air Force personnel by the 
     University of New Hampshire. ``There's a spillover from what 
     one does in one sphere of life in one role to what one does 
     in other roles,'' says Murray Straus, A University of New 
     Hampshire family-violence expert who worked on the study. 
     ``If you're in a occupation whose business is killing, it 
     legitimizes violence.''
       The inherent lack of autonomy in a military job also sets 
     the stage for abuse. ``It's all about control,'' says Cindy 
     Zamora, the wife of an Army tanker. She now lives in a 
     shelter for battered women in Killeen, Texas, just outside 
     huge Fort Hood. She moved there after her husband bit her, 
     beat her and threatened her with a knife. ``There's a lot of 
     women in here married to soldiers whose sergeants protect 
     them if they're good soldiers,'' she says. ``They can't 
     control their superiors on the job, so they control us.'' 
     Although her husband admitted under oath last month in a 
     Texas courtroom that he is married to two women, he remains 
     in the Army. ``He was under a lot of stress and was nervous 
     about being kicked out,'' she says. ``He said if he didn't 
     get his sergeant's stripes, I was going to get hurt.'' She's 
     angered that he remains in the Army in good standing even as 
     it investigates his bigamy. ``The military knows he has two 
     wives, but he's still in the Army,'' she says. ``They just 
     sweep it under the rug.''
       Katherine Coleman was married to an Army major and 
     psychologist. ``It's a myth that domestic violence doesn't 
     happen in officers' families,'' says Coleman, now divorced 
     and living in San Antonio, Texas. Her husband went so far as 
     to draft a prenuptial pact detailing sexual obligations and 
     rules governing outside friendships. She recalls him 
     cornering her in the kitchen or bathroom and not letting her 
     leave until she gave in to his demands. ``We argued once for 
     four hours in the kitchen, and he wouldn't let me out,'' she 
     says. ``I had to urinate on the kitchen floor.'' But she had 
     power over him too. ``He hit me a couple of times until I 
     told him his career would be over if he did it again,'' 
     Coleman says. He remains in the Army, training its mental-
     health workers.
       The men involved in such episodes aren't eager to discuss 
     them. But some acknowledge that the prospect of watching 
     lifelong dreams shatter as the military shrinks can make them 
     lash out in rage and frustration. ``It stresses you out, but 
     you can't hit the officers,'' an Army man says. ``So you wait 
     till you get home and take it out on her and the kids.'' 
     Another soldier will only say of his wife that ``we abused 
     each other.'' In fact, the Army survey suggests that spousal 
     abuse usually involves violence by both partners. But women, 
     it notes, are far more likely than men to be injured.
       The military has reacted to the problem by creating 
     counseling programs and discipline boards. Military families 
     are told to report any instances of domestic violence they 
     witness, even if it occurs outside their family. But few 
     abused spouses are willing to risk their family's financial 
     future by seeking help through Army channels, because such 
     complaints often end up on the desk of the abuser's 
     commander. ``The military needs to do something to ensure the 
     confidentiality of spouses so the wife can go and get help 
     without hurting his career,'' says Phyllis Lonneman, a 
     Kentucky attorney representing a woman charged with the 
     slaying of her Army husband in August after years of alleged 
     abuse. ``It doesn't matter how good or bad the military's 
     programs are if the spouses are afraid to use them.''
       And the abuser's commander often isn't sympathetic to the 
     battered spouse, according to Sadonna Polhill, who is the top 
     caseworker at the Killeen shelter. ``They'll tell the wife, 
     `This is a bunch of bull--quit making these accusations 
     because you're ruining your husband's career,''' she says. 
     ``They try to make the one who's being battered at fault.'' 
     Anxiety over their husbands' careers has led to a sharp drop 
     in the number of women--from 85% to 50% over the past two 
     years--who permit the shelter's staff to alert military 
     officials to the women's visits. ``A lot of that has to do 
     with the pressures on the soldiers and their families,'' 
     Polhill says. ``And many are deathly afraid of their 
       While many civilian domestic-violence experts praise the 
     strides the military has made in dealing with the problem, 
     they say follow-through is often lacking. A Pentagon 
     investigation last year surveyed 13 Pentagon prisons to see 
     how many were complying with a 1982 federal law obligating 
     them to alert crime victims, including abused spouses, when 
     perpetrators are released. Not a single one was. In a 1990 
     case, a Kentucky woman, Andrea Turner, was murdered by her 
     husband three days after his release from a military prison. 
     The killer, who had been locked up for abusing her, said he 
     shot her five times in the back because she ruined his Army 
     career. She had made plans to move secretly to a new home 
     before his official release date, but the military neglected 
     to tell her that he was getting out two months early because 
     of accumulated military leave. ``It was a nightmare,'' one 
     Army official involved in the case says. ``Nobody told her.''
       The problem isn't limited to spouses. Child abuse is also 
     on the rise, leading the Pentagon to create a child death-
     review task force that will eventually probe all child deaths 
     in the U.S. military to determine if abuse is to blame. 
     ``After a child dies, people say it was an accident,'' says 
     Army Colonel Will Hatcher, who is helping to launch the 
     program. ``But we want to go back and check.'' For several 
     months the task force has been examining child deaths at the 
     Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Colorado and at hospitals 
     at the Bremerton naval base in Washington and Travis Air 
     Force Base in California.
       Despite the Pentagon's intentions, its sometimes haphazard 
     efforts offer little comfort to victims and their families. 
     Jeromy Willis, for example, was sentenced to life 
     imprisonment for the murder of his wife and is now serving 
     time at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Yet Marie Willis' family 
     remains bitter, because the military ignored so many warnings 
     that a tragedy was afoot. Her family says Jeromy was confined 
     to base twice because he tried to kill Marie, but he was 
     allowed to roam freely on the base when the Air Force invited 
     and paid for her to return there and testify against him. 
     ``Abused people should not rely on the military for 
     protection,'' says her father, Eugene Mello, himself an Air 
     Force veteran. Her mother, Marie Mello, puts it more simply: 
     ``The Air Force was an accomplice in my daughter's death.''