Unintended Consequences: Intimate Partner Violence, Military Caregivers, and the Law

July, 2020

This article reviews current US research and policy regarding intimate partner violence (IPV) in military, caregiving and military caregiver communities. The review found that veterans and military service members are at higher risk of IPV than civilians. Veterans diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, SUB or depression are at an even higher risk. The review then goes on to make legal suggestions to protect veterans and caregivers from IPV, as well as recommending increased education, support and services.


Of the millions of caregivers to injured, ill, or disabled United States military veterans, many are spouses or intimate partners. These individuals must negotiate their responsibilities as caregivers with their roles as intimate partners, but not all relationships are healthy and safe. Accurate rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) against military caregivers by their veterans is difficult to determine, but it does happen. As with civilian populations, spouses of military veterans may be hesitant to leave abusive relationships because of the risks of losing access to medical and mental health care, housing, financial stability, and a cohesive family unit. Moreover, spousal caregivers who are legally obligated to their care recipients may be further deterred from leaving abusive households because of elder abuse laws enacted in many states. Such laws render caregivers vulnerable to felony neglect or abandonment charges. This article reviews current research and policy regarding IPV and discusses its impacts on spousal caregivers of military veterans by describing military caregivers as an important subpopulation; synthesizing key research on IPV in military, caregiving, and military caregiver communities; explaining how state elder abuse statutes generate unintended consequences for these caregivers; and offering recommendations to keep veterans and their caregivers safe.

Full Reference

Hinton, C.E., 2020. Unintended Consequences: Intimate Partner Violence, Military Caregivers, and the Law. Journal of Veterans Studies, 6(1), pp.211–225. DOI:

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