A new survey being emailed to about 200,000 active-duty service members and 100,000 military spouses aims to provide more insight into the strengths and challenges of military couples — including domestic violence.

It’s part of a broader Defense Department effort, mandated by Congress, to identify the risk of domestic violence at various stages of military service. The overall analysis will identify stages when there is a higher-than-average risk of domestic violence, and stages where implementation of domestic violence prevention efforts could have the greatest impact.

Depending on the response rate, the survey could provide more information about the prevalence of domestic violence in the military.

A scientifically -chosen, random sample of service members and spouses are receiving emails inviting them to participate in the survey, which launched April 10. An access code is included in the email.

The survey is expected to close in May.

The nonprofit Rand Corp.’s National Defense Research Institute is conducting the 2023 Survey on the Strengths and Challenges of Military Relationships. It’s voluntary, and confidential; DoD will never receive information about who responded, and the study team won’t link individual responses with names or identities, according to Rand’s frequently asked questions about the survey.

Researchers note that for most people, there are no risks to participating in the survey. However, they state, “for some people, topics in the survey may cause discomfort or distress. The survey describes serious forms of abuse, and some people might find these descriptions upsetting.”

“These descriptions are included to make sure the survey can accurately measure when these serious forms of abuse have occurred, and to show people who have experienced abuse that these events are included and taken seriously,” they stated.

The survey, which takes about 25 minutes to complete, delves into risk factors associated with domestic abuse and its impact on military housing, children’s education, and the short-term and long-term effects on physical health and mental health of military members and families.

“The survey results will have a direct impact on training and policies that affect service members, spouses, intimate partners and families,” said Patricia Montes Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, in an announcement of the survey.

“I know time is often in short supply, but I ask everyone who receives the survey to share their perspective and help us improve our support for families and the military community.”

The Defense Department doesn’t currently collect information on a number of family-related topics, according to the Rand FAQ. The survey will provide DoD leadership with the information to develop policies to ensure that service members and spouses get the support, security and resources they need.

Officials are calling for broad participation, to help ensure that all experiences of service members and spouses are understood. “If only some types of people complete the survey, DoD will be in the dark about the views of different types of people in different types of locations,” according to Rand.

Those who receive an email invitation can take the survey from a personal phone or computer. You can also forward the survey invitation to your personal email, to complete it away from work. If there are computer or technical problems, contact the research group at StrengthSurvey@rand.org.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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