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Advocate calls domestic violence 'a hidden pandemic' following Fort Campbell murder

Meghan Santiago
Posted at 5:10 PM, Oct 11, 2021

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — An advocate said domestic violence on military bases is "a hidden pandemic" after a pregnant woman was murdered on Fort Campbell.

Meghan Santiago was rushed to the hospital following a so-called "incident" in September. Her family said she had been trying to escape a bad situation. After her death, a soldier was charged with murder.

Miraculously, her baby survived. A family member created a GoFundMe page for the children.

Clarksville area Urban Ministries has a safe house for abuse survivors. "As far as domestic violence, there’s been a large increase in talk about sexual violence in the military, but domestic violence is truly kind of the hidden pandemic essentially going on, there hasn’t been a lot of light shed to that, and often with a lot of the cases, the military tries to keep it quiet," said Program Director Megan Setter.

Lately, Setter has seen an increase in high-risk domestic violence cases. "You can’t blame PTSD for it, we know that domestic violence is a lot more complex than that, it’s all about wanting to have power and control over someone, and we’re better to kind of read that than in the military culture where you have a rank-and-file system," Setter said. "And unfortunately sometimes soldiers don’t turn that off when they get home."

Recently, Setter's nonprofit purchased a new property to triple capacity and hire extra staff.

"We routinely have to turn away at least 30 individuals plus their children each month because we’re not able to meet the needs due to lack of bed space available or just the staffing. Unfortunately here in Clarksville, the city is growing, you know whether it’s related to the military, or people coming in because our property values are cheaper in our regions here," Setter said.

She wants victims to know they can get help if they don’t want to go through the chain of command on post. "Because service members, their career comes first and foremost, the dependent spouse usually has to sacrifice, and it’s oftentimes they’re not able to obtain employment, or they just truly need that whether it be health insurance, they have children in common, they’re isolated from friends and family because they’re stationed pretty far away from their sources of support," Setter said.

The safe house has a donation page. In addition to emergency housing, Setter would like to one day have transitional housing too.