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Honor, Courage, and Commitment

Glenna Tinney shares her story of being an "army brat" to becoming an activist and victim advocate.

Glenna TinneyGlenna Tinney is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts as a woman veteran.

I am honored to be selected as a White House Champion of Change. I am humbled to be in the company of fourteen other extraordinary women veterans with amazing stories of courage, sacrifice, resilience, healing, recovery, hope, and service.

My journey began when I was born an Army brat at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. My father entered the Army in the enlisted ranks and, twenty years later, retired as a Major, so he had a very successful military career. He deployed to Korea for two tours during the Korean Conflict when I was very young. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized my father struggled with his combat experiences for the rest of his life. I understand now that he had undiagnosed and untreated combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression that he self-medicated with alcohol. I realize that he was plagued with survivor’s guilt for the men he lost while fighting in Korea. He never recovered from these experiences.

I am a retired Navy Captain. In 1980, I was one of the original twelve Navy social workers ever recruited for active duty. I spent 24 years in the Navy as a social worker. I had various duty stations in the continental United States and outside of the U.S., and traveled to military installations worldwide. I managed worldwide family violence and sexual assault programs. I served as the Deputy Executive Director for the Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence. We issued extensive recommendations to Congress and the Secretary of Defense to improve policies, procedures, and practices for handling domestic violence throughout the Department of Defense. After completion of the Task Force work, I worked on implementation of the Task Force recommendations. I retired in 2004, which was in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

I am also an activist and a victim advocate who has worked for nearly four decades to end violence against women. This work began back in the mid-1970s, when I was a newly graduated Master of Social Work (MSW) who wanted to change the world. I worked at a community mental health center and became involved in setting up the first battered women’s shelter and first rape crisis center in our community. This work established the foundation for my entire career. My mission has been and continues to be one of advocacy for and service to the vulnerable and disenfranchised in our society.

I bring all of these experiences and perspectives to the work I do now as the Military Advocacy Program Coordinator for the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP), a national technical assistance provider for the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). BWJP promotes change within the civil and criminal justice systems to improve their response to domestic violence and more effectively provide safety and justice to domestic violence survivors and their families. I also bring these perspectives to my role on the Advisory Council for the Business and Professional Women’s Joining Forces for Women Veterans Mentorship Program to assist women veterans in obtaining meaningful employment and a successful career of interest to them.

I manage the Building Effective Civilian Responses to Military-Related Victims of Intimate Partner Violence Project that is funded by OVW with Violence Against Women Act funds. I am responsible for developing a model coordinated-community-response to co-occurring incidents of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and intimate partner violence. This model addresses screening, assessment, and intervention for intimate partner violence and co-occurring conditions. I provide training to increase the capacity for military and civilian victim advocates, attorneys, and other providers to address the unique needs of military-related victims and offenders, and understand the challenges of advocating in these cases. An e-learning course I developed, Safety at Home – Intimate Partner Violence, Military Personnel, and Veterans, addresses the military and veteran infrastructures and resources for addressing intimate partner violence, the context of violence, risk and danger, combat stress, and the intersection of combat-related co-occurring conditions and intimate partner violence. I have established two national listservs to promote networking and information sharing between military and civilian subject matter experts and those working with the military-related population to enhance the quality of services for military personnel, veterans, and their families. I engage in the national dialogue to influence legal, military, veteran, and public policy developments nationwide that affect civil and criminal justice responses to intimate partner violence involving military personnel, veterans, and their families. This involves collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders from the military, veteran, and civilian communities to ensure coordination of efforts and successful implementation of best practices in addressing intimate partner violence involving military personnel, veterans, and their families.

Are veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) different from my father? Not really. Most people who return from combat have some problems with reintegration and experience some combat stress reactions (e.g., bad dreams and nightmares, sleep disturbance, short temper, anger and rage, increased drinking and drug use) when they first return, but do not necessarily go on to have PTSD. Like my father, they are struggling with their combat experiences. They too have children who are growing up impacted by a parent who is impaired. Like my father, many of these veterans do not seek help and are trying to cope with their issues by themselves. They and their families are going through hell as they too try to work, raise families, and live some semblance of a normal life while continuing to experience the aftermath of their combat experiences. Some of these veterans are depressed and contemplate, threaten, or attempt suicide. Some are becoming involved with the criminal justice system for a range of crimes, including drug offenses, driving under the influence, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, murder, etc. They are accountable for their behavior, and it is never acceptable to abuse their intimate partners and children.

People who have been in combat are changed forever by that experience, as are their families. We cannot totally understand what they have been through even if they do talk to us about it, but we can be there to love and support them, hold them accountable for their behavior, help them get the assistance they need, and let them know that they are not alone.

I want to thank all of the amazing people who have been part of my journey. My family and friends have always been there for me even when I was traveling all over the world. I want to thank all of the dedicated and courageous people with whom I have worked over the years who are committed to ending violence against women. To military personnel, veterans, and their families, I want to thank you for your service, and I want to thank all of the people who support and care for our military personnel, veterans, and their families. Whether or not you have any connection to the military, I encourage you to learn more about how ten years of war have impacted our military personnel, veterans, and their families, and find a way to show your appreciation for the huge sacrifices they have made while serving our country.

Glenna Tinney currently serves as the Military Advocacy Program Coordinator for the Battered Women’s Justice Project.