Protections from Violence and Abuse

Domestic Violence and the Military

Everyone should feel safe in their own home. There are different options for victims of domestic violence when they or their abuser is a member of the United States armed forces. Explore information on military resources and considerations for domestic abuse/violence victims. 

In the military, what is the difference between domestic abuse and domestic violence?

The military considers domestic abuse and domestic violence to be two different things.

Domestic Abuse

Any form of relationship violence, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial harm. Also included are spousal neglect, if a spouse is not able to take care of themselves.

Domestic Violence

A criminal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. According to the Uniform Code, domestic violence occurs when one or both of the following take place against a current or former spouse or intimate partner:
  • There is a violation of a lawful order, (Example: a military or civilian order of protection),
  • The act involved the threat, attempt, or use of force or violence.

What is a Military Order of Protection?

Military Protective Order (MPO) is a tool used by military command to keep victims of domestic abuse and their children safe. A person does not have to be in the military to request an MPO.
MPOs are only enforceable at the military base where the request for an MPO was made.

Do I qualify for a Military Order of Protection?

If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or the military police 

When domestic abuse or violence takes place and a service member is involved, there are specific requirements about who should be contacted and where to request an order of protection. Requesting an order of protection depends on where the abuse took place and if the victim/offender is a civilian.

  • If BOTH the victim and offender are members of the military, then only a Military Order of Protection (MOP) may be requested,
  • If the victim has a CHILD with the offender, and EITHER parent is in the military, the victim may request an Order of Protection with the military OR through a state court.
  • If the OFFENDER is a service member and the victim is a civilian AND the victim does not live on base, an Order of Protection may be requested through a state court. 
  • If the VICTIM is a service member and the OFFENDER is a civilian, an Order of Protection may be requested through a state court. 
  • If the abuse took place outside of the United States, and EITHER person is in the military, a MOP could be requested.

If you are in Arizona and need more information about filing a state order of protection visit –

How do I request help with the military?

Victims of domestic violence who are service members or live in military housing may make a report to either the military police or an on-base Family Advocacy Program (FAP). Where a victim reports domestic violence makes a difference as to what actions can be taken and which type of report, a restricted or unrestricted report, will be made. Special considerations for both restricted and unrestricted reporting may need to be weighed.

What is the difference between unrestricted and restricted reporting?

There are options for how and when to report domestic violence if the offender is in the military. Understanding the difference may help inform decisions on how to proceed.


Restricted (Confidential) Reporting

Through a restricted report – made when domestic violence is reported to an on-base Family Advocacy Program, military law enforcement and command are not informed or involved.  

In a restricted report, 4 groups of professionals keep domestic violence confidential: 

Unrestricted (Non-Confidential) Reporting

An unrestricted reportmade when reporting domestic violence to military police - informs law enforcement and the member’s military command of the offender’s actions. Moving forward with an unrestricted report means that law enforcement begins an investigation (this includes questioning the offender), command is notified, and victims may request a Military or Civilian Protective Order.

Are there times when a victim is not allowed to make a restricted report?

While a victim of domestic violence may want to only make a restricted report, there are situations where they are only able to file an unrestricted report. These are cases where: 

  • The victim is still at immediate risk of serious harm, 
  • Cases where child abuse happened, and/or 
  • It is required by law to report the incident to law enforcement and child protective services.

What are the risks or benefits to filing a restricted report over an unrestricted report?

The main difference between the two reports is who is made aware of the abuse. This may be its biggest benefit, or risk, depending on what the victim believes is best for them and their family.
Restricted Report
Unrestricted Report
  • Confidential 
  • Access to medical and mental health services 
  • Access to victim advocacy programs 
  • Allows time to get legal advice 
  • Control of personal information 
  • Limits to who you can talk to about what happened
  • Established process to keep the offender accountable 
  • Ability to request a Military Protective Order (MPO) 
  • Access to legal services 
  • Ability to request a transfer to a different unit or base 
  • Evidence may be gathered to assist with an investigation

What if I tell someone outside of the Family Advocacy Program about the abuse?

Only conversations with the military chaplain (minister/religious leader), SAPR or SARC, healthcare personnel, or Special Victims’ Counsel are privileged and confidential.

If a victim discloses information about the domestic violence they are experiencing to any military personnel (outside of FAP) an unrestricted report may be filed on their behalf and an investigation may take place.

What are the military consequences for domestic violence?

In situations where an unrestricted report of domestic violence is made, the offender’s commander determines what type of consequence may happen. The offender’s commander may take no action or they might select one or more of the following consequences:

  • A full investigation
  • Criminal charges
  • Restriction
  • Confinement
  • Demotion
  • Recommend for courts martial proceedings which could include - discharge from service, forfeiture of pay, imprisonment
  • If the victim is in the military and the offender is a civilian, it is unlikely the commanding officer will be able to hold the offender accountable since civilians do not follow the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). However, the commander may prohibit the offender from entering the military base.

If the offender is found guilty, would the military remove their right to carry a gun?

Whether a domestic violence offender can retain their weapon is up to the discretion of the military command. If the offender is found guilty of domestic violence in a state or military court, the military may:  

  • Remove any firearms and ammunitions that were issued by the government, and 
  • Suspend the offender’s authority to access government-issued firearms and ammunition.  

This also applies to offenders who are not service members but are employees of the military.  A military protective order does not legally require guns to be removed.

What if I am overseas and need help with domestic abuse?

The Family Advocacy Program (FAP) provides services outside of the United States. A victim advocate is placed at every military installation where families are assigned.

To locate the nearest FAP, visit Military One Source installation online search tool. For people looking for organizations that help victims overseas visit National Organizations – International.


For cases where the offender is being relocated overseas, the military does not require the spouse to relocate with them. Typically, the military does not relocate service members with histories of domestic violence overseas because of the increased vulnerability and less access to resources.

For families that have already relocated overseas but feel at risk, they may request a return stateside through the Early Return of Dependents (ERD) program.

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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