FORT POLK, La. –– As the new year starts, many people develop a list of resolutions to help bring about changes in their lives. In so doing, countless numbers have found that they are not alone –– there are others just like them seeking the same or similar results.

Many of these same individuals have tried to make these changes in the past, and because of the obstacles that stand in their way, give up and return to old habits and circumstances. This is also true for those living in and trying to leave abusive domestic relationships.

The Department of Defense defines domestic violence as “an offense under the United States Code, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or state law that involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force or violence against a person or a violation of a lawful order issued for the protection of a person who is: (a) A current or former spouse; (b) A person with whom the abuser shares a child in common; or (c) A current or former intimate partner with whom the abuser shares or has shared a common domicile.”

For Fort Polk Soldiers and Family members, help is available through the Army Domestic Violence Victim Advocacy Program, or VAP. VAP services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through victim advocates.

Victim advocates are trained professionals who provide non-clinical advocacy services and support to Soldiers and Family members experiencing domestic abuse. They provide crisis intervention, safety planning, nonjudgmental support, assistance in securing medical treatment for injuries, information on legal rights and proceedings, and referrals to military and civilian resources.

Those who experience domestic abuse have two options when reporting the abuse:

• Restricted reporting — allows victims the option of receiving medical treatment, advocacy and counseling without triggering an official investigation or command involvement.

• Unrestricted reporting — victims receive medical treatment, advocacy, counseling and an official investigation of the allegation. This option allows the widest range of rights and protections to the victim.

Restricted reporting is available to Soldiers, Family members, spouses and intimate partners.

The VAP offers these tips to protect individuals from domestic violence:

• Have an emergency kit with money, medical cards, checkbook, car keys, birth certificates and other identification, pay stubs, medicines and important phone numbers.

• Plan an escape route out of your home; teach it to your kids.

• Know your resources, such as shelter, transportation and money.

• Ask family, friends and others for help.

• Notify the police.

• Get medical help if injured.

• Ask the doctor, nurse or friend to take pictures; save any ripped or bloody clothes as evidence and provide to either the health care provider or law enforcement.

• Discuss available safety measures with a victim advocate, including a military protective order.

If you or someone you know needs help or wants more information, or to report abuse, contact the Fort Polk Victim Advocacy Program at 531-6333 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. After duty hours, holidays or weekends, call the installation VAP Domestic Violence Hotline (a 24-hour abuse reporting line) at (337) 424-7494 to report known or suspected intimate partner abuse, spouse abuse or child abuse or neglect, or to speak with a victim advocate.

For emergencies, call “911” or Fort Polk law enforcement at 531-2677.