MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- When Sgt. Amanda King spoke to crowds at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune's Domestic Violence Summit, she emphasized she was not the victim of her experience with spousal abuse.
King said the victim in her life was her two-month-old child. King faced years of threats, intimidation and attacks that left more than holes in the walls of her home. However, she never expected the violence would reach her children.
While in her husband’s care, their two-month-old son suffered two fractures in his skull. He suffered severe brain trauma, and his life support was terminated after about a week of medical care. King’s husband was charged with first-degree murder and inflicting intentional and serious harm on a child.
“I had field duty, like every other Marine,” said King, a field radio operator with Combat Logistics Regiment 27. “I did not think he would hurt them because they were never the target of his anger, it was always me.”
Presenters at the summit spoke of how domestic violence happens in escalating cycles. Tensions build into an abusive incident then deescalates into a honeymoon phase with periods of calm and peace. Each cycle typically brings more severe trauma than the last.
After her son’s death King experienced media attention and knew of news stories describing what happened to her son. She decided to share her experiences at the summit hoping to prevent what she and her family endured.
“I don’t want to read about this with a different name,” she said. “I don’t want this to ever happen to anybody.”
King, like many others who faced violence at the hands of a partner, felt trapped in her predicament. She had separated from her husband numerous times, but many factors kept her tied to him including their children and the house they bought together.
“I couldn’t afford to leave him and keep a roof over my sons’ heads,” said King. “A lot of women will take as much abuse as they can stand. If you can get up, you will take it again for your children.”
The summit brought Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and local community resources together to address what King faced, and what others could still be enduring, domestic violence.
Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Gorry, the Marine Corps Installations East – Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune commanding general, Maj. Mark E. Bailey, the base provost marshal, and representatives from the Family Advocacy Program, Onslow Women’s Center, Onslow County Child Advocacy Center, the Community Counseling Center, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Jacksonville Police Department among others took part in the summit.
“It takes a multi-faceted approach to address domestic violence,” said Gorry. “Through forums like this we can pass knowledge. We can pass our skills and expertise so we can address this problem.”
Domestic Violence is not unique to the military community. Throughout the United States, nearly 25 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men said they were raped or physically assaulted by a current or former partner at some time in their lifetime in a survey by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Domestic Violence is a pattern of coercive and abusive behavior. It takes many forms including physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Physical abuse involves causing bodily harm. It can be characterized by choking, slapping or punching. It can also take the form of grabbing a person or their clothing, withholding medication or food and forcing alcohol or drug use upon them according to the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence against Women.
Sexual abuse involves coercing a person to have sexual conduct or behavior without consent. An abuser may treat a victim as a sexual object. Sexual abuse is also exhibited when an abuser forces the victim to have an abortion or sabotages birth control methods, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Protection in Families Experiencing Domestic Violence Manual.
Emotional abuse can involve threats, name calling, controlling behavior and intimidation. Abusers may also isolate and deliberately embarrass a victim.
Abusers may use finances to hurt the victim by withholding access to money, forbidding the victim to go to work, refusing to contribute to shared or household bills and maintaining control of all finances.
Abusers may take the victim’s military identification card, limiting their access to resources aboard the base or other important paper work such as immigration documents.
Abusers tend to be manipulative, jealous and possessive. They may have rigid traditional beliefs and may abuse drugs or alcohol.
“If alcohol and drugs are involved, they can contribute to abuse, but that’s not what the abuse is about,” said Starr Zani, an education and intervention specialist with Marine Corps Community Service’s Community Counseling Center.
Abuse is about control. Perpetrators use abuse to get a desired behavior from the victim, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Protection in Families Experiencing Domestic Violence Manual.
Such abuse does not discriminate against sexuality. Gay and lesbian service members and their partners may undergo domestic violence as well.
It is important to show victims empathy, and make sure their needs are met regardless of their sexual orientation, she added.
Organizations throughout Camp Lejeune and the local community are ready to help anybody facing domestic violence.
To reach help in the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune area 24 hours a day call the domestic violence helpline at 750-5852. To reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline call 800-799-SAFE. For life threatening emergencies, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.