The Senate passed an amendment to the Soldiers Bill of Rights that would protect military employees’ dependent spouses and children from domestic abuse.
The amendment, sponsored by Senator Pall Wellstone (D-MN), would require the Defense Department to issue new guidelines regarding the privacy rights of domestic violence survivors in military families.
Wellstone stated, “Battering is one of the greatest causes of injury to women nationwide, accounting for about one quarter of the 1.4 million hospital emergency room admissions in 1994. The prevalence of violence against women associated with the US armed forces is deeply troubling, as they are particularly vulnerable due to the isolation, the mobile lifestyle and financial insecurity of military service.”
Wellstone also noted that battered women and children in military families are less like to seek help from outside authorities due to fears that the confidentiality of their medical and psychiatric records would be threatened. “The Pentagon needs to change its procedures so that the mental and physical health records of dependent are subject to the same privacy restrictions placed on those of other civilians,” Wellstone proclaimed.
Earlier this month, numerous members of Congress and other government officials including Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James Maloney (D-CT), T. Fowler (R-FL) and others participated in a press briefing in which they discussed the extent and severity of domestic violence in military families. Participants concluded by reviewing drafted legislation which would require the Defense Department to revise its administrative policies regarding protective orders and domestic abuse complainant’s rights to confidentiality.