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Researchers study link between combat-related PTSD, domestic abuse

The sad story of Army Ranger Jared Hagemann might have one strong positive associated with it in the wake of the young man's recent death: a greater understanding of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that many combat veterans are diagnosed with and its close link in many cases to domestic violence that is prevalent in their home lives.

Hagemann was a highly experienced combat veteran, with eight separate deployments over a handful of years to Iraq and Afghanistan. When he was ordered back for a ninth tour of duty in early autumn of this year, he balked, telling his wife he simply could not endure any more battles.

On June 28, he shot and killed himself at a Washington military base, instead. His death has put a strong spotlight on veterans' PTSD and its spillover effect in facilitating domestic violence at a comparatively high rate among military families.

Hagemann's spouse says that, despite his frequent attempts to get help and eventual PTSD diagnosis, the extent of the assistance he got from the Army was enrollment in an anger-management class. She says that, although she loved her husband, she also feared him for the violence she knew he committed in battle.

April Gerlock, a VA nurse and researcher, has just published findings on the link between vets' PTSD and acts of domestic violence committed against their partners and other family members.

The findings -- which appear this month in the American Journal of Nursing -- are stark, even chilling. Gerlock and colleagues who interviewed vets with PTSD say that about 45 percent of them admit to being or having been aggressive with their spouses. Sixty percent of them reported "mild-to-moderate" acts of violence against their partners within the past six months.

That is a sobering concern that warrants closer attention, researchers say, given the high rate of PTSD diagnosis in returning combat veterans.

Source: The Daily Weekly, "Jared Hagemann's tale illustrates big problem among vets: domestic violence" Nov. 11, 2011

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