SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, working to end violence against women and children.
The month evolved from the Day of Unity held in October 1981, the intent being to connect advocates across the nation.
The Day of Unity eventually became an entire week devoted to a range of activities conducted at the local, state and national level and has continued to evolve.
In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed and marked the initiation of the first national domestic violence toll-free hotline.
In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 101-112, designating October of that year as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and legislation has passed every year since with National Coalition Against Domestic Violence providing key leadership in this effort.
In line with the 50th Space Wing priority “Take care of our Airmen and families always,” Ken Robinson, 50th Space Wing violence prevention integrator, said any healthy relationship begins with being attuned, available and responsive.
“Whether it’s marriage, family, or with your wingman in a work center,” he said. “You need to be attuned to the people you supervise, especially if they’re struggling. Sometimes in the workplace, Airmen and civilians don’t feel connected to each other or their leadership, and this causes distress and influences the motivation to work.”
Robinson added humans crave human contact.
“We’re not designed to be loners,” he said. “We’re dependent on others in a healthy sense, and we have an innate desire to bond with someone else. We need people around us and in our lives to be successful.”
First Lt. Lauren Hughes, 50th Space Wing chaplain, believes healthy relationships consist of both parties showing respect, communicating openly and trusting each other.
“I think this is true in a parent to child, romantic or collegial relationship,” she said. “If one believes their child, spouse or fellow Airmen’s life holds intrinsic value, then respect can be placed as the foundation of their relationship.”
Robinson explained there are two major types of domestic violence: intimate terrorism and situational couple violence, intimate terrorism being about power, control and coercion.
“One person is trying to gain control of another person, psychologically, emotionally or physically,” he said. “They often lack the ability to mentalize and the ability to understand and express empathy under certain circumstances.”
Situational couple violence is common for some, with no history of power control or sociopathic behavior.
“Under distress, couples don’t understand what’s happening to them and they may react in a harmful way to mitigate the distress,” he said. “They fear the relationship may be dissolving or ending and in turn they try and repair it negatively.”
Hughes added it’s important for Airmen to have healthy relationships with each other because it will affect their readiness.
“Take the Golden State Warriors; their team seems to be healthy because they respect, communicate, and trust each other on the court to do each job,” she said. “As a result, they’ve won three championships in the last four years. In the same light, if Airmen have healthy relationships with each other, then it’s easier to work with each other and complete the mission.”
Robinson said Airmen at times reach out to their leadership to connect when they feel distress, and leadership may not always see this bid for connection and know how to help in an effective way.
“If leaders are secure, over time, they will model security to Airmen and can be a safe haven model for them,” he said. “When this happens, a secure base workspace will be established, anxiety will decrease, and in turn, there will be a positive impact for the people they supervise.”
Hughes said many unhealthy relationships stem from miscommunication or misunderstandings.
“With training, Airmen can help develop their communication skills, leading to healthier personal and work relationships,” she said. “Usually, if people feel respected and understood, it can be easier to build trust. I believe those qualities will attribute to healthy relationships.”
Robinson explained the major types of attachment styles, secure, avoidant and anxious, with anxious and avoidant being a common couple dynamic.
“One is pursuing, trying to alleviate perceived disconnection, and one is withdrawing, the other avoiding because of feeling overwhelmed,” he said.
Robinson explained in the military, couples who have a securely attached or “safe haven” relationship at home often thrive during deployments.
“After deployments, during reintegration, there is an initial ‘honeymoon period’” he said. “After that, real life sets in, and couples have to learn to be together and rebond again.”
“If you are separated from loved ones, tap into technology,” Hughes added.
Robinson’s goal is to teach couples about the various attachment styles and how distress activates attachment alarms and how to bond deeply, supporting strong relationships with not only spouses, but fellow Airmen as well.
“I teach everyone how to be engaged and responsive to each other,” he said. “When there’s been disconnection and hurt, I teach people how to repair the bond. Everyone struggles to some degree, whether it’s marriage, family or with your coworkers.”
Robinson said healthy relationships, when it comes to parenting, starts before the baby is even born.
“The bonding process takes place the few months before birth and particularly in the first year,” he said. “There is an attachment and attunement dynamic that happens between a parent and a child, both verbal and nonverbal.”
Robinson added the bonds between parents and their children at an early age are how we develop individual attachment styles.
“If the parents are attuned, available and responsive, kids will have a secure attachment style as adults,” he said. “The need for securely attached relationships are from cradle to grave.”
Hughes stressed whatever relationships Airmen are in, they should be intentional about putting effort into them.
“Giving people your time is a huge gift because it is one of your most valuable resources,” she said. “Saying hello seems small, but it can have a large impact. Many friendships and marriages begin with a hello.”
Hughes said it is crucial to celebrate differences and embrace change.
“Our Air Force is more diverse than it has ever been and with such vastly different experiences, evolution and innovation are bound to happen,” she said. “Healthy relationships can happen when you celebrate differences and embrace change.”
Hughes added always be open to learning more about your fellow Airmen.
“Curiosity can be a beautiful thing,” she said. “When seeking to understand someone seemingly different, you will find many similarities. When you are seeking ways to embrace change, innovation is conceived. This is applicable in and out of the work place. The fear of the unknown diminishes as you lean into gain new knowledge.”
Hughes emphasized the need to speak up if something does not feel right in a relationship.
“Your spouse and children are not mind readers, and your wingmen may have personal things going on,” she said. “I don’t know if we can completely prevent unhealthy relationships. However, if we can identify them, then we have a choice of staying in the unhealthy relationship, trying to improve it or walking away from it.”
For more information about healthy relationships, contact Robinson at 567-2647.