Intimate partner abuse and child abuse are twin scourges that touch nearly every society and culture. Military culture is sadly not immune – indeed, the unique circumstances faced by military families make the problem of abuse uniquely challenging. Isolation, separation, a “job” that is quite literally a matter of life or death… the list of contributing factors is as familiar as it is confounding.
Military families at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren and NSF Indian Head have a new, full-time navigator to guide them through these troubled waters. Gloria Arteaga returned in May to the NSASP Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) as the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) Victim Advocate/FAP Educator, after previously serving the command and Naval Air Station Patuxent River in the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) role. While NSASP’s FFSC has always managed FAP with both clinical and Victim Advocate support, Arteaga’s return is part of the enhancements to the Family Advocacy Program’s prevention and educational components.
“The FAP program provides a Victim Advocate for adult and child abuse and neglect cases,” said Arteaga. “I’m also the FAP Educator – as part of the new OPNAVINST 1752.2C, there is a mandate for FAP education required for all active duty, DoD Civilians and contractors. We want to bring awareness to our community on base about the resources we have, how the program works – what is FAP for starters – and what kinds of services we provide to reduce intimate partner violence and child abuse.”
The goal is to provide all members of the Navy family with tools to prevent abuse before it happens, and with consistent support, if it does. “We already have many programs in-place – anger management, stress management, resiliency – we want people to know what is available so they can learn how to deal with stressors in a healthy way,” said Arteaga. “You can learn to deal with these issues without taking them out on the ones you love.”
But the new mandate isn’t just focused on prevention; it also enhances the capabilities of those charged with enforcing the law. Arteaga is already working with Navy First Responders to better prepare them to recognize signs of abuse, support victims, and bring abusers to justice. Discretion is key, however.
The FAP framework continues to empower victims to make a report. Whether the victim selects a restricted or unrestricted report, the most important thing for victims to know is that dedicated assistance, with a lot of options for just about any situation, is a phone call away. Whether the need is mental health, medical referral, or counseling, Arteaga is ready to lend an ear and share her knowledge. “My job is not to pry, my job is to present the resources based on [the victim’s] need,” she said.
Nor does that assistance stop at the installation fenceline. FAP’s framework includes off-base support and services available to victims, and Arteaga is working to build on the community-based partnerships for a more comprehensive support and services system for our Navy and Marine Corps community. She also works with existing programs like the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to support federal civilians. “We can make referrals to these other great programs that already exist,” she said.
Arteaga’s new role represents only the latest chapter in her career of serving victims. As she earned her Juris Doctor from the University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce Law Center, she worked with the New Hampshire bar association’s Domestic Violence Emergency Project (DOVE) and Domestic Violence Advocacy Project (DVAP). She served the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), New Hampshire, for the Nashua School System, and later as a Guardian Ad Litem and Court Investigator in New Bedford, Mass. She joined the Navy’s FFSC Team in 2010 in Newport, R.I. before relocating to NSASP and NAS Patuxent River. Her extensive knowledge and experience is matched by her passion to advocate for victims.
“The main thing is safety,” she said. “We want people to be safe. We also want people to be proactive about their own behaviors and get rid of those stressors in a more healthy way, to learn how to communicate with their partners instead of lashing out. We want people to know that these resources exist and how to access them.”
For more information about the revamped FAP program, please call the FFSC at (540) 653-1839.