Expert Comment on Domestic Violence by Troops Returning from Iraq

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Richard Gelles

Dean, School of Social Policy and Practice

As more U.S. troops return from multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, more headlines will emerge from cases like that of Marine Sgt. Daniel Cotnoir, who is claiming posttraumatic stress disorder as part of his defense for firing a shotgun out his Massachusetts apartment window at noisy patrons of a neighboring bar.

However, when it comes to domestic violence, the stereotype of the military man whose life of violence on the battlefield leads to violence in the home, just doesn't ring true, says Dr. Gelles, who has consulted for the military on domestic violence prevention.

While the rate of domestic violence among soldiers is higher than same-aged civilians, the rate of domestic homicide committed by soldiers is actually lower than the rate of their civilian peers,Dr. Gelles says.

The military the U.S. Army in particular -- appears to actually be able to effectively prevent the escalation of domestic violence.

"When it comes to treating potential batterers, be it those suffering from posttraumatic stress or others, the military actually has some advantages in that it's a controlled environment and treatment can be more easily dictated and monitored," Dr. Gelles says.

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