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When the Battlefield is at Home: Navigating Abuse in Military Families


military domestic abuse and child abuse

Welcome Protectors! Child abuse and domestic violence are complex and deeply concerning issues that affect families across the globe. However, when these issues intersect with the unique circumstances of military life, they can become even more challenging to identify and address. In this blog post, we will explore the specific challenges that child abuse and domestic violence present in military families and discuss strategies for identification and intervention.


The Unique Challenges in Military Families


Frequent Relocations:


Frequent relocations are an integral part of military life, distinguishing it from civilian experiences. While these moves are often unavoidable due to the nature of military service, they pose unique challenges for military families. In this discussion, we will delve into the complexities of frequent relocations and how they impact military families.


The Frequency of Relocations:


Military families are no strangers to packing their bags and moving to a new location. These relocations can occur every few years or even more frequently, depending on the service member's assignment and career progression. The transient nature of military life means that families must adapt to new environments, communities, and social circles repeatedly.


Challenges Faced by Military Families Due to Frequent Relocations:


  • Limited Stability: Frequent moves can disrupt the stability of family life. Children may have to change schools, leaving behind friends and familiar routines. Spouses often face the daunting task of rebuilding their social networks and finding new employment opportunities in each new location.

  • Financial Strain: Moving can be expensive, and while the military provides some financial support for relocations, it may not cover all expenses. Families may need to dip into their savings to cover moving costs, and finding affordable housing at each new duty station can be a challenge.

  • Emotional Toll: Constantly uprooting one's life can take an emotional toll on military families. The stress of adjusting to new surroundings, coupled with the uncertainty of future moves, can contribute to anxiety and emotional strain.

  • Impact on Children: Children in military families often bear the brunt of frequent relocations. Changing schools, leaving friends behind, and adapting to new educational systems can affect their academic and social development. Additionally, some children may experience a sense of detachment or difficulty forming lasting relationships due to the transient nature of their lives.

  • Spousal Employment: Military spouses frequently face career interruptions and job instability due to relocations. The need to frequently change jobs or adapt to different industries can hinder their professional growth and financial independence.


Mitigating the Challenges of Frequent Relocations:


  • Family Support Programs: Military organizations have recognized the challenges posed by frequent relocations and have established support programs to assist families in adjusting to new locations. These programs often provide information, resources, and counseling services to help families navigate the challenges.

  • Education Resources: Ensuring continuity in children's education is a priority for military families. To address this, the military provides resources like school liaison officers who can help families find suitable schools and programs in their new locations.

  • Community Building: Military communities often offer a strong support network for families. Spouses' clubs, social groups, and community events can help newcomers establish connections and build a sense of belonging.

  • Financial Assistance: The military offers financial assistance for relocations, including allowances for housing and transportation. Understanding and utilizing these benefits can alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with moving.

  • Career Resources for Spouses: Recognizing the employment challenges faced by military spouses, various organizations offer resources and programs to help spouses maintain and advance their careers despite frequent relocations. Online and remote work opportunities are also becoming more accessible.


Deployment Stress:


Deployment is a central aspect of military life, and it brings with it a myriad of unique challenges, particularly in the context of military families. Among these challenges, deployment stress stands out as a pervasive and complex issue that impacts not only the deployed service member but also their families left behind. In this discussion, we will delve deeply into the concept of deployment stress, its various dimensions, and the strategies for addressing it within military families.


Understanding Deployment Stress:


Deployment stress refers to the emotional, psychological, and physical strain experienced by both the deployed service member and their family members during a deployment. It is a multifaceted issue with a wide range of effects, including anxiety, depression, marital strain, and even physical health problems.


Challenges Faced by Military Families Due to Deployment Stress:


  • Emotional Turmoil: One of the most significant challenges associated with deployment stress is the emotional turmoil it creates. The service member may experience anxiety and fear associated with combat or the demands of their duty, while family members back home often grapple with worry, loneliness, and uncertainty about their loved one's safety.

  • Parenting Alone: Deployments frequently leave one parent solely responsible for the well-being and upbringing of their children. This added responsibility can be overwhelming, particularly if the remaining parent has little prior experience in a primary caregiver role.

  • Communication Challenges: Maintaining communication with a deployed service member can be difficult due to time zone differences, limited access to technology, and operational security concerns. This can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration for both the deployed and at-home family members.

  • Financial Strain: Deployments can sometimes result in financial challenges, especially if the deployed service member is the primary breadwinner. Families may need to navigate financial matters without their deployed spouse's input, leading to added stress.

  • Reintegration Stress: While it may seem counterintuitive, the return of a deployed service member can also be a stressful period. Adjusting to the changed dynamics and routines can be challenging, and both the service member and their family may experience a period of readjustment.


Addressing Deployment Stress in Military Families:


  • Pre-Deployment Preparation: Adequate pre-deployment preparation, including family readiness programs and counseling, can help families anticipate and prepare for the challenges ahead. This can include legal and financial preparations, discussions about expectations, and access to support resources.

  • Community and Social Support: Building a strong support network is essential for coping with deployment stress. Military families often find solace in connecting with others who are going through similar experiences. Support groups and community events can provide a sense of belonging and shared understanding.

  • Communication Strategies: Both the deployed service member and their family need to establish effective communication routines during deployment. Setting clear expectations, finding ways to stay connected, and being patient with communication challenges can help reduce feelings of isolation.

  • Mental Health Services: Access to mental health services is crucial for both the service member and their family members. Military organizations offer counseling and support programs to address deployment-related stress, anxiety, and depression.

  • Reintegration Support: Preparing for the service member's return is just as important as preparing for their departure. Families should anticipate potential challenges and work together to ease the transition back to civilian life.


Isolation:


Isolation is a recurring and poignant challenge faced by military families, setting them apart from civilian counterparts. Unlike many civilian families who establish roots and long-lasting relationships within a community, military families experience frequent relocations, which often lead to social and emotional isolation. In this exploration, we will delve into the concept of isolation, its far-reaching consequences, and strategies for mitigating its effects on military families.


Understanding Isolation in Military Families:


Isolation in military families is primarily driven by the transient nature of military life. Service members receive assignments that necessitate relocation every few years, which means families must adapt to new environments, communities, and social networks repeatedly. This continuous uprooting can foster feelings of isolation, both for the service member and their family members.


Challenges Faced by Military Families Due to Isolation:


  • Limited Social Networks: Frequent moves often result in limited opportunities for military families to establish strong and enduring social connections. As a result, they may struggle to build the support systems and friendships that provide emotional and practical assistance during times of need.

  • Disrupted Educational Continuity: For children in military families, isolation can manifest in disrupted educational continuity. Changing schools frequently can hinder their academic progress and make it challenging to form stable friendships.

  • Spousal Employment Challenges: Military spouses frequently face difficulties in maintaining stable employment due to the constant relocations. This can lead to a sense of professional isolation and financial instability.

  • Emotional Strain: The isolation experienced by military families can contribute to emotional strain, including feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. The lack of a strong support network can exacerbate these emotional challenges.

  • Difficulty Accessing Services: Military families may find it challenging to access essential services, such as healthcare, childcare, and educational support, in their new locations. This can further isolate them from the resources they need.


Mitigating the Effects of Isolation in Military Families:


  • Community Building: Military communities often offer support networks through family readiness groups, spouse clubs, and community events. Encouraging participation in these groups can help military families build connections and alleviate isolation.

  • Online Support: In the digital age, online support networks and social media groups specific to military families can provide a sense of community and connection, even when physically isolated.

  • Mental Health Services: Access to mental health services is crucial for addressing emotional strain and isolation. Military organizations provide counseling and support programs to help families navigate the challenges of isolation.

  • Education Resources: Ensuring continuity in children's education is a priority for military families. The military offers resources like school liaison officers who can help families find suitable schools and programs in their new locations.

  • Spousal Employment Support: Recognizing the challenges faced by military spouses, various organizations offer resources and programs to help them maintain and advance their careers despite frequent relocations. Online and remote work opportunities are also becoming more accessible.


Identifying Child Abuse and Domestic Violence in Military Families


Signs and Symptoms:


Child abuse and domestic violence are deeply concerning issues that can impact military families as much as any other. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of these problems is of utmost importance to ensure the safety and well-being of all family members. In this comprehensive discussion, we will explore the signs and symptoms that individuals, including military personnel and community members, should look for when identifying child abuse and domestic violence within military families.


Understanding the Signs and Symptoms:


Recognizing the signs and symptoms of child abuse and domestic violence is essential for early intervention and support. It's important to remember that these signs may vary in intensity and presentation, and they can differ from one situation to another. However, there are common indicators to look for when identifying child abuse and domestic violence in military families.


Signs of Child Abuse:


  • Physical Signs: Unexplained bruises, burns, or injuries on the child's body, especially in unusual locations or patterns. Frequent unexplained injuries or repeated accidents. Withdrawn behavior, fear of physical contact, or flinching at sudden movements.

  • Emotional Signs: Frequent mood swings, extreme irritability, or aggression. Withdrawn behavior, depression, or excessive anxiety. Regression to earlier behaviors like bedwetting or thumb-sucking.

  • Behavioral Signs: Sudden changes in behavior, such as becoming excessively clingy or overly compliant. Exhibiting age-inappropriate sexual knowledge or behaviors. Fear of a specific caregiver or reluctance to be alone with them.

  • Academic Signs: A sudden drop in academic performance or frequent school absences. Difficulty concentrating or signs of developmental regression.

  • Emotional and Psychological Abuse: Constant criticism, belittling, or shaming of the child. Isolation from friends or family members. Threats of violence or abandonment.


Signs of Domestic Violence:


  • Physical Signs: Unexplained injuries on the victim, such as bruising, cuts, or broken bones. Frequent medical visits or hospitalizations without a reasonable explanation. The victim wearing concealing clothing, even in inappropriate weather.

  • Emotional Signs: Anxiety, depression, or noticeable changes in mood. Extreme fear, particularly of the abusive partner. Low self-esteem, constant self-blame, or feelings of hopelessness.

  • Social Signs: Isolation from friends and family members. A noticeable decline in social activities and interests. Drastic changes in social behavior, such as avoiding gatherings or events.

  • Control and Manipulation: The abuser consistently tries to control the victim's actions, finances, or communication with others. Threats of harm to the victim, their loved ones, or pets. Restricting access to resources, such as money or transportation.

  • Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual activity or coercion within the relationship. Evidence of sexual assault or unwanted sexual advances. The victim exhibiting signs of trauma related to sexual abuse.


Strategies for Identifying Signs:


  • Educational Programs: Military organizations should provide educational programs and workshops for military personnel and community members. These programs should focus on recognizing signs and symptoms of abuse and violence and emphasize the importance of reporting concerns.

  • Community Awareness: Raise awareness within the military community about the signs and consequences of child abuse and domestic violence through campaigns, events, and discussions.

  • Anonymous Reporting Systems: Establish anonymous reporting systems that allow individuals to report concerns without fear of retaliation.

  • Community Involvement: Encourage community involvement and communication. Engage military families in discussions about child abuse and domestic violence to reduce stigma and fear of reporting.

  • Professional Training: Provide specialized training for military professionals, such as medical personnel, counselors, and family support specialists, to enhance their ability to identify and respond to signs of abuse and violence.


Raising Awareness:


Child abuse and domestic violence are deeply troubling issues that can affect any family, including those in the military. Identifying and addressing these problems within military families is of paramount importance. Raising awareness about the signs and consequences of child abuse and domestic violence is a critical first step in addressing these issues effectively. In this comprehensive discussion, we will explore the importance of awareness, the unique challenges faced by military families, and strategies to identify and combat child abuse and domestic violence within this context.


The Significance of Raising Awareness:


Raising awareness about child abuse and domestic violence in military families is essential for several reasons:


  • Prevention: Awareness campaigns can help prevent these issues by educating military families about the warning signs and behaviors associated with child abuse and domestic violence. Armed with knowledge, individuals are more likely to recognize and intervene in such situations.

  • Early Detection: Increased awareness equips individuals within the military community to identify potential cases of abuse or violence early, allowing for timely intervention and support for victims.

  • Support for Survivors: Awareness efforts can connect survivors of abuse or violence with essential resources and support networks, enabling them to seek help and healing.

  • Community Responsibility: By raising awareness, we encourage a sense of collective responsibility within the military community to protect children and individuals from abuse and violence.


Strategies for Raising Awareness:


  • Educational Programs: Military organizations should develop and promote educational programs and workshops specifically tailored to military families. These programs should provide information about the signs of child abuse and domestic violence, as well as resources for seeking help.

  • Community Engagement: Engaging the military community through awareness campaigns, events, and discussions can foster an environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues and seeking assistance.

  • Anonymous Reporting: Establishing a safe and anonymous reporting system within the military can encourage victims or witnesses to come forward without fear of retaliation. This can be a vital tool in identifying and addressing abuse.

  • Online Resources: Create online resources and information hubs where military families can access educational materials, learn about the signs of abuse, and find contact information for support organizations.

  • Partnerships with Civilian Agencies: Collaborate with civilian agencies and organizations specializing in child abuse and domestic violence to share resources and expertise. This can lead to a more comprehensive and coordinated response.


Promoting Reporting:


Child abuse and domestic violence are insidious issues that can plague any family, including those in the military. Identifying and addressing these problems within military families is of paramount importance, and promoting reporting is a critical aspect of this endeavor. In this comprehensive discussion, we will delve into the significance of promoting reporting, the unique challenges faced by military families, and strategies to encourage individuals to report instances of child abuse and domestic violence within this context.


The Importance of Promoting Reporting:


Promoting reporting of child abuse and domestic violence is crucial for several compelling reasons:


  • Victim Assistance: Reporting allows victims to access necessary assistance, protection, and support services, helping them break free from abusive situations and begin the healing process.

  • Accountability: Reporting holds perpetrators accountable for their actions and can lead to legal consequences, discouraging further acts of abuse and violence.

  • Early Intervention: Reporting facilitates early intervention by authorities and support networks, potentially preventing further harm to victims.

  • Prevention: A culture of reporting can serve as a deterrent to potential abusers, reducing the prevalence of child abuse and domestic violence within military families.


Unique Challenges in Promoting Reporting in Military Families:


Promoting reporting of child abuse and domestic violence within military families presents distinctive challenges, including:


  • Fear of Retaliation: Military families may fear retaliation or consequences for reporting abuse, especially if the perpetrator is a fellow service member. This fear can deter individuals from coming forward.

  • Isolation: The isolation that often accompanies military life can make it difficult for victims to access support networks or confide in friends and neighbors. They may feel cut off from help and resources.

  • Stigma: Stigma surrounding abuse and violence can discourage victims from reporting, as they may feel ashamed or believe that their experiences are not taken seriously.


Strategies to Promote Reporting:


  • Anonymous Reporting Systems: Establish and widely publicize anonymous reporting systems within the military community. Ensuring anonymity can alleviate fears of retaliation and encourage individuals to report suspected abuse or violence.

  • Educational Campaigns: Develop and implement educational campaigns within the military community that emphasize the importance of reporting, reduce stigma, and provide information about available resources and support services.

  • Commander Involvement: Encourage military commanders to actively support reporting efforts and create an environment where victims feel safe coming forward without fear of repercussions.

  • Community Engagement: Engage the military community through workshops, seminars, and discussions on the importance of reporting. Create safe spaces where individuals can openly discuss their concerns and receive guidance.

  • Support Networks: Promote the availability of support networks, both within the military and in civilian communities, where victims can seek assistance and guidance.

  • Legal Protections: Ensure that military policies and regulations offer legal protections for those who report abuse or violence. This includes safeguards against retaliation and support for victims throughout the reporting process.

  • Collaboration with Civilian Agencies: Collaborate with civilian agencies and organizations specializing in child abuse and domestic violence to ensure that military families have access to a comprehensive network of resources and support.


Supportive Resources:


Child abuse and domestic violence are grave issues that can affect any family, including those in the military. Identifying and addressing these problems within military families is paramount, and having access to supportive resources plays a vital role in this endeavor. In this comprehensive discussion, we will explore the significance of supportive resources, the unique challenges faced by military families, and strategies to ensure these families have the necessary support to address child abuse and domestic violence effectively.


The Importance of Supportive Resources:


Supportive resources are crucial for addressing child abuse and domestic violence in military families for several reasons:


  • Victim Assistance: Supportive resources provide essential assistance, protection, and counseling to victims, enabling them to escape abusive situations and begin the healing process.

  • Prevention: These resources can help identify and intervene in abusive situations early, preventing further harm to victims and potential escalation of violence.

  • Education and Awareness: Supportive resources often include educational programs and materials that raise awareness about the signs and consequences of child abuse and domestic violence, fostering a safer environment.

  • Community Building: Support networks and group therapy sessions offered by these resources can create a sense of community among survivors, reducing isolation and fostering resilience.


Strategies to Ensure Access to Supportive Resources:


  • Centralized Information Hub: Establish a centralized online information hub that military families can access from anywhere. This hub should provide details about available resources, contact information, and educational materials.

  • Telehealth Services: Expand telehealth services to ensure that families can access counseling and support remotely, even during deployments or frequent relocations.

  • Community Outreach: Promote community outreach initiatives to inform military families about available resources and how to access them. This can include local workshops and informational sessions.

  • Support During Deployments: Develop specialized support programs for families during deployments, including virtual counseling and peer support groups to address the unique challenges faced during these periods.

  • Collaboration with Civilian Organizations: Collaborate with civilian organizations and agencies specializing in child abuse and domestic violence to ensure that military families have access to comprehensive support networks, even if they relocate frequently.

  • Crisis Hotlines: Ensure that crisis hotlines are available 24/7 for immediate assistance and guidance in emergency situations.

  • Education and Training: Offer training programs for military personnel, including service members and their families, to help them identify signs of abuse and violence and understand how to access supportive resources.


Addressing the Unique Challenges


Military-Civilian Collaboration:


Military families face a myriad of unique challenges that can significantly impact their well-being. The transient nature of military life, frequent relocations, and the stresses associated with deployments can create complex hurdles for these families. However, addressing these challenges effectively requires more than just military support. Collaborative efforts between the military and civilian communities are crucial in providing comprehensive assistance to military families. In this comprehensive discussion, we will explore the unique challenges faced by military families, the importance of military-civilian collaboration, and strategies to bridge the gap between these two communities.


The Importance of Military-Civilian Collaboration:


Addressing these unique challenges effectively requires a collaborative approach between the military and civilian communities for several reasons:


  • Expertise Sharing: Civilian organizations often have specialized expertise and resources that can complement military support services. Collaborating allows the military to tap into this expertise.

  • Access to Local Resources: The civilian community can provide access to local resources, including healthcare, education, and employment opportunities, that military families may need during relocations.

  • Reducing Isolation: Collaboration helps reduce the isolation that military families may feel by connecting them with civilian neighbors and support networks.

  • Holistic Support: Working together allows for a more holistic approach to addressing the multifaceted challenges military families face, ensuring comprehensive support.

  • Resource Efficiency: Collaboration can lead to more efficient use of resources, preventing duplication of efforts and optimizing assistance to military families.


Strategies for Effective Military-Civilian Collaboration:


  • Community Partnerships: Establish partnerships between military installations and local community organizations, such as schools, healthcare providers, and employment agencies. These partnerships can facilitate access to vital services.

  • Joint Programs: Develop joint programs that leverage the strengths of both military and civilian organizations. For example, collaborative initiatives can provide employment support to military spouses or educational resources for military children.

  • Cross-Training: Conduct cross-training for military and civilian professionals to enhance their understanding of each other's resources and the unique challenges faced by military families.

  • Outreach Efforts: Implement outreach efforts to bridge the gap between military and civilian communities. These efforts can include community events, information sessions, and support groups that bring families from both communities together.

  • Resource Coordination: Establish centralized coordination centers that facilitate the seamless transfer of information and resources between military and civilian organizations.

  • Legislation and Policy: Advocate for legislation and policies that support military-civilian collaboration. This can include tax incentives for employers who hire military spouses or initiatives to streamline the transfer of professional licenses across state lines.

  • Research and Data Sharing: Collaborate on research projects and data sharing to better understand the needs and experiences of military families and develop evidence-based solutions.


Screening and Prevention:


Military families, as a unique demographic, face distinctive challenges due to the nature of military service. Frequent relocations, deployment stress, and the transient lifestyle can pose significant hurdles to their well-being. Addressing these challenges proactively through effective screening and prevention measures is essential to support military families in leading healthy and fulfilling lives. In this comprehensive discussion, we will explore the unique challenges faced by military families, the importance of screening and prevention, and strategies to ensure the well-being of these families.


The Importance of Screening and Prevention:


Effective screening and prevention efforts in military families are crucial for several reasons:


  • Early Intervention: Screening helps identify issues at an early stage, allowing for timely intervention to prevent the escalation of problems.

  • Promoting Resilience: Prevention programs can equip military families with coping strategies and resilience-building skills to better handle the unique stressors they face.

  • Enhancing Well-Being: Proactive screening and prevention measures contribute to the overall well-being of military families, reducing the negative impact of challenges such as relocations and deployments.

  • Resource Allocation: Screening and prevention help allocate resources efficiently, directing support to families that need it most.


Strategies for Effective Screening and Prevention:


  • Comprehensive Assessments: Develop comprehensive screening assessments for military families that cover physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. These assessments should be conducted regularly and ideally before and after deployments.

  • Mental Health Services: Ensure that military families have access to mental health services that offer screenings for stress, anxiety, and depression. These services should be readily available and destigmatized.

  • Preventive Education: Implement preventive education programs that provide military families with information on stress management, communication skills, and resources available to them.

  • Community Support: Encourage community support networks within military installations that can help families during deployments and relocations. These networks can provide practical assistance and emotional support.

  • Family Counseling: Offer family counseling services that focus on strengthening relationships and providing tools to manage the stress of military life.

  • Employment Assistance: Develop employment assistance programs that support military spouses in maintaining and advancing their careers despite frequent relocations.

  • Child and Youth Programs: Establish child and youth programs that focus on the unique needs of military children, including support during parental deployments and school transitions.

  • Resilience Training: Provide resilience training to military personnel and their families to help them cope with the challenges of military life and foster adaptability.


Legal Protections:


Military families, a distinctive demographic, confront a series of unique challenges arising from the demands of military service. Frequent relocations, deployment-related stress, and the transient lifestyle can create complex hurdles for their well-being. Addressing these challenges effectively necessitates the establishment of robust legal protections that safeguard the rights and interests of military families. In this comprehensive discussion, we will explore the unique challenges faced by military families, the importance of legal protections, and strategies to ensure the well-being of these families through legal means.


The Importance of Legal Protections:


Legal protections for military families are vital for several reasons:


  • Safeguarding Rights: Legal protections ensure that military families have the rights and resources they need to address challenges, including protection from discrimination and unfair treatment.

  • Supporting Well-Being: These protections contribute to the overall well-being of military families by addressing issues such as housing, employment, and access to healthcare.

  • Ensuring Fair Treatment: Legal safeguards prevent unjust treatment, discrimination, and exploitation of military family members, particularly during deployments and relocations.

  • Resource Allocation: Legal protections help allocate resources efficiently, directing support to families that need it most.


Strategies for Effective Legal Protections:


  • Housing Protections: Enact laws that protect military families from discrimination in housing, ensuring they have access to suitable and affordable housing options.

  • Employment Rights: Establish legal provisions that safeguard the employment rights of military spouses, including job protection during relocations and the recognition of professional licenses across state lines.

  • Deployment Support: Implement laws that require employers to provide job protection and benefits continuation during a service member's deployment, ensuring the financial stability of military families.

  • Education Rights: Enforce laws that ease the transition of military children between schools during relocations, guaranteeing access to quality education and support services.

  • Family Law Protections: Strengthen family law protections for military families, including child custody and visitation rights during deployments and deployments' impact on child support orders.

  • Consumer Protections: Establish consumer protection laws that shield military families from predatory practices, such as excessive interest rates and scams targeted at service members.

  • Healthcare Access: Ensure that military families have access to quality healthcare, including mental health services and support for those dealing with deployment-related stress and trauma.

  • Legal Assistance: Provide legal assistance programs to military families, helping them navigate complex legal issues and ensuring they have access to affordable legal counsel.


Conclusion


Child abuse and domestic violence within military families present unique challenges that demand thoughtful and targeted solutions. It's imperative that we acknowledge these issues, raise awareness, and work together to provide support, resources, and protection for the vulnerable members of our military community. By addressing these challenges head-on, we can create a safer and more supportive environment for military families, ensuring their well-being and the well-being of their children.

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