Forensic consultant and author Dean Tong states, “Approximately 270,000 fathers are victimized each year across America by unfounded and false child sex abuse reports.” Family courts and child protective services have become plagued with false accusations used in an attempt to sever the relationship between a parent and child. As bad as it is to be falsely accused in the civilian sector, it is far worse in the military. In the military, the soldier has little say after accusations are made and must follow orders from a chain of command concerned more about how the accusation may affect their own careers, not the soldier’s.
Family Advocacy is the army’s equivalent of child protective services. It is its responsibility to investigate accusations of abuse. However, unlike child protective services, family advocacy has an additional resource – the soldier’s chain of command. Upon receiving allegations of abuse, family advocacy notifies the proper authorities (e.g., military police) as well as the solder’s commander or first sergeant. Once the soldier is notified of the allegation, the soldier should be read his/her rights under article 31 of the uniform code of military justice. The soldier is then “counseled” in writing that he/she is not to return home or have any contact with the spouse or children other than that instructed by family advocacy. This is formally known as a No Contact Order or Military Protective Order (Restraint Order). Failure to follow the order is subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
After informing the soldier of his/her rights and issuing the Military Protective Order, the commander, or most likely the First Sergeant, will order the soldier to move out of housing and into the barracks. (Some units keep a room open specifically for this purpose since it occurs so often). The soldier is escorted home by a military police officer while he/she picks up uniforms and personal hygiene products. In many cases, when the soldier is allowed to return home, the spouse has moved out and the soldier is left to an empty housing unit, or apartment. Often, all personal belongings will be gone, other than what the spouse did not want.
Two options are available to report abuse to Family Advocacy. They are Restricted Reporting and Unrestricted Reporting. A Restricted Report does not initiate the investigative process and no investigative agencies or the soldier’s chain of command will be notified. With Unrestricted Reports, investigative agencies, including the soldier’s chain of command, are notified. Both have benefits and limitations. For instance, in Restricted Reporting, the soldier will not be placed under a Military Protective Order. However, if it is a true case of abuse, the victim will not have the available protection that the Unrestricted Reporting provides – the Military Protective Order. If an allegation is made to a third party who reports it to family advocacy, it automatically becomes an Unrestricted Report. Certain professions, such as nurses, teachers, and social workers, are classified as Mandatory Reports. By law, they must report any suspicion of abuse. The angry spouse can simply make a comment to a mandatory reporter, who will file a report of abuse with family advocacy.
The Lautenberg Amendment is a supplement to the Gun Control Act of 1968. It “makes it a felony for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition.” An angry and vindictive spouse, determined to end the career of a soldier, will push buttons. A simple slap can result in a conviction of domestic violence and will immediately end a military career. A soldier who cannot carry a firearm is useless to the military.
If the spouse is moving to another state, the investigation will be transferred to the nearest installation; however, it is not unusual for an investigation to be closed because of the spouse’s failure to participate. The spouse achieved what she/he set out to do: place the service member under great stress, leave with all the possessions, take the children, wreak havoc on the service member’s career, and most likely destroy all the military service member’s personal mementos in one last attempt to “get even.” However, the Military Protective Orders will continue to remain in place.
False accusations are made to family advocacy for the same reason they are so common in the civilian sector. They are a fast and easy method to sever a relationship between the individual and his/her children. With an accusation, an “angry and vindictive” spouse will have the military member under house arrest while he/she is loading the couple’s belongings and leaving the installation. As in the civilian sector, if the accusations are proven false, the accuser will go unpunished. And, as in the civilian sector, an overwhelming percentage of accusations are found unsubstantiated. Since spouses who make false accusations are not held accountable, again, there is no deterrent to making an accusation.
Little can be done about manipulating the military system; however, there is a need to begin prosecuting false allegations made to family court and child protective services simply because of the overwhelming number of accusations made each year. Each false accusation to child protective services takes away resources needed to investigate allegations of the true cases of child abuse. There is no reason any child should be subjected to either physical or psychological abuse. It is our responsibility as a society to protect our children and allowing false accusations of abuse to overwhelm an already understaffed, under-trained, and underfunded investigative agency, as well as an overburdened court system, makes us all responsible for those cases of abuse that slipped through the system.