Jared Hagemann's Tale Illustrates Big Problem Among Vets: Domestic Violence

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This week's feature story reveals the saga that led up to the death of Jared Hagemann. The ranger was plagued not only by wartime demons but by a turbulent home life--sheding lights on a little-recognized problem among veterans: domestic violence.

In Fallen Soldier, we cite one ongoing study showing that roughly 45 percent of interviewed veterans seeking treatment for PTSD had been aggressive with their spouses. It's a local study, drawn from the ranks of patients using Veterans Affairs facilities around the Puget Sound. And newly released numbers show the problem is even bigger for vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

VA nurse practitioner and researcher April Gerlock, along with colleagues, published the first phase of her findings in this this month's issue of the American Journal of Nursing. Among vets from the current wars who had recent partners and were afflicted with PTSD, 60 percent reported "mild-to-moderate IPV within the previous six months." (IPV stands for Intimate Partner Violence, more commonly known as domestic violence.)

"I was amazed by that figure," American Journal of Nursing Shawn Kennedy told Gerlock in a podcast.

What makes this of even bigger concern is the fact, as the researchers recognize, that so many newly returned vets have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Not only that, Gerlock and her colleagues say there is a relationship between domestic violence and suicide (as well as homicde), as Hagemann's story illustrates. Yet in only one quarter of the cases they looked at did researchers find records indicating that health care providers had asked about domestic violence.

Last August, Gerlock and her colleagues captured the voices of many of these vets and their wives in a webinar she did for the Battered Women's Justice Project. It's a fascinating look at the way war veterans' trauma and aggression can come out in relationships. One wife tells the researchers:

The other day, he's telling me: 'If you leave me, or you cheat me, or something, I'll kill you. I prefer to kill you in and put you in pieces and spread you everywhere.'

Wives are fearful not only because of current threats, but because of what they know about their husbands' pasts.

He says 'I killed people in Vietnam.' Now what does that make you think. If you're yelling at somebody and they say 'I killed before.'

Jared Hagemann wife said she, too, was fearful because of what her husband had done in battle. But the couple's sad story also demonstrates that the relationship issues that so frequently follow war--75 percent of the vets Gerlock studied had "family readustment problems"--can be a two-way street that are just as damaging for the vet as they are for his spouse.

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