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How we found out about a shocking loophole in a military policy meant to protect victims of domestic violence
How We Found Out explores recent reporting from Task & Purpose, answering questions about how we sourced our stories, what challenges we faced, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how we cover issues impacting the military and veterans community.
In December, Task & Purpose published a longform feature that explored domestic abuse in the military, the Pentagon's attempts to curb it, and how a policy loophole meant to support victims of spousal abuse has left the very people it's meant to help in dire straits.
Written by our Pentagon-based Army reporter, Haley Britzky, the story focused on Ellizabeth Grimes, who was allegedly assaulted by her husband, Army. Col. Jerel Grimes.
In the wake of the alleged attack, Ellizabeth was left to deal with a number of physical injuries that still require medical attention. Hospital records from that night say her injuries included a "closed head injury, hematoma, concussion, cervical strain, extremity contusion or fracture." She also was put on medication she'd never needed before, to help with anxiety, depression, and nausea, as well as to help her sleep at night.
However, as a dependent of a service member, her health coverage is through Tricare, and once she divorces her husband — which she filed to do almost immediately after the attack — she'll no longer be a dependent, and no longer have Tricare. This will leave her to start over with new doctors. Additionally, because her husband hasn't been charged with anything, and hasn't been separated from the Army, she's unable to qualify for transitional compensation, which exists to help abused dependents retain their Tricare coverage.
Given the sensitive nature of reporting on domestic abuse, combined with navigating a nebulous Pentagon policy, Task & Purpose spoke with Britzky about how she found the story, what obstacles she faced while reporting it, and how we as a news site handle allegations of wrongdoing when criminal charges have been filed but no verdict has been reached in a court of law.
This is the third installment in the recurring column How We Found Out.
An Army colonel's alleged abuse saddled his wife with ongoing medical needs. Escaping him could bring that care to a screeching halt.
Katherine Burton was sitting on her couch when she heard a scream.
Though she had not yet met her upstairs neighbors, Army. Col. Jerel Grimes and his wife Ellizabeth, Burton went to investigate almost immediately. "I knew it was a cry for help," she recalled of the August 1 incident.
Above her downstairs apartment in Huntsville, Alabama, Jerel and Ellizabeth had been arguing. They had been doing a lot of that lately. According to Ellizabeth, Jerel, a soldier with 26 years of service and two Afghanistan deployments under his belt, had become increasingly controlling in the months since the couple had married in April, forcing her to share computer passwords, receipts for purchases, and asking where she was at all times.
"I was starting to realize how controlling he was, and how manipulative he was," Ellizabeth said. "And he'd never been this way towards me in the 15 years that I've known him."
An analysis of more than 200 cases of domestic violence at eight military installations has determined that commanders and law enforcement personnel are not following their own rules when investigating and handling these cases and their victims.
Tamara Campbell started receiving letters from her ex-husband, Bradley Darlington, after he'd been in jail for almost two years.
Sometimes they came to her directly and sometimes they were forwarded to her by her former in-laws. Regardless of how they arrived, the letters violated the victim/witness program procedures in place at Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake, where Darlington was incarcerated.
Former Army Special Forces Maj. Jason M. Sartori was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years confinement and dismissal from the service after being found guilty of abuse and child endangerment, according to Army Maj. Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for 1st Special Forces Command.