Family Advocacy Program not only for crises

Program is also available for prevention, manager says

By Chrystal Smith
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office

Photos by Karl Weisel Members of the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden community take part in a Take Back the Night Candlelight Walk that the Family Advocacy Program sponsored in 2012.

Photos by Karl Weisel
Members of the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden community take part in a Take Back the Night Candlelight Walk that the Family Advocacy Program sponsored in 2012.

The call to action for most victim advocates often comes too late, regrettably after one has suffered a severe injury or a life has been taken.

For that reason, the local advocates are making extra efforts to ensure the community knows that the Family Advocacy Program is a resource to turn to for help to prevent situations of abuse or to deliver one out of violent and abusive circumstances.

“FAP is a multifacited program. We offer several different services … for everyone who falls within the garrison footprint,” said Michelle Stosich, FAP manager, who said the services include victim advocacy, new parent support programs with home visitors, emergency placement care, respite care and nine other prevention and awareness programs.

FAP staffers are aware of the various reason those in need do not use the program.

“There’s an unfortunate perception that any involvement with FAP is bad,” said Stosich, explaining that many generally become aware of FAP’s involvement in matters because the situation has become bad, and children or spouses have to be removed from homes because of violence and abuse. “It’s not ‘all’ bad. Come to us first. We can help before it becomes a problem.”

Women light candles before the march.

Women light candles before the march.

Stosich recounted a case where she was arranging safe shelter for an abused spouse, and when she went to the quarters (accompanied by MP escort) to help the victim and her children pack and leave, she saw holes in the walls where the spouse’s husband had thrown her. “This is what can happen when there is a lack of prevention and intervention,” she said.

Statistically, Army-wide deaths due to domestic violence are upward trending.

One reason Soldiers tend to shy away from seeking FAP assistance is a common misconception that using such services can ruin a military member’s career.

“Some Soldiers believe that the Army frowns upon this kind of help; that you’re not a ‘super Soldier’ if you have to get help running your household,” said Kari Ross, FAP victim advocate (and Army spouse). “Family advocacy is the Army’s effort to keep our families safe and healthy and make our communities stronger,” said Stosich.

Lack of awareness is another reason those who need the program don’t tap into its resources.

Commonalities among victims, such as being isolated, withdrawn, fearful and restricted ― dominated by another’s authority ― lends itself to not knowing where to turn after having made the decision to seek help.

Because studies have shown that patterns of abuse can repeat through the generations of victims, the community’s youth are at the focus of the program’s awareness and prevention campaign.

“We are focused on breaking the cycle,” said Ross, who added that the local team of advocates are actively partnering with the local schools to teach youths about interpersonal relationships in an effort to stamp out abusive behavior. “We want to educate them from the beginning of how to treat each other.”

That effort coupled with other awareness events and campaigns is getting the word out about Family Advocacy Program resources. As a result, numbers in general are up as it relates to the entire program. “The hotlines are being used,” said Ross, speaking of the domestic violence hotline at civ (0162) 297 5625, sexual assault hotline at (0162) 296 6741 and the child abuse hotline (same as Military Police) (0611) 705-5096.

“More people are aware of the hotline numbers and they are calling. Our home visits are up (through our New Parent Support Program). And we’ve had more people utilize our classes on stress management in the past few months,” said Stosich.

And while interpreting why the numbers are up is a bit complicated, Stosich and her staff continue to urge the community to seek preventive assistance from the FAP to stifle any possibilities of violence, abuse or assault.

“It’s tough times,” said Ross, recognizing that many are under stress for reasons that include the transitioning from Heidelberg, economic challenges, career uncertainties and other daily stressors. “Reach out to us for help. We are here for anyone who needs help.”

Learn more by contacting the FAP at Hainerberg Housing Building 7790 or call civ (0611) 4080-234/254 or mil 335-5234/5254.

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