For most people, moving to a foreign country, experiencing another culture and living the expat life is a dream come true. But for those who find themselves in an abusive relationship, the dream quickly turns to a nightmare. They can face very real and unique barriers to leaving the abusive relationship and the foreign country. They may flee back to the USA in desperation and go into shelter only to find they are in desperate need of an international family law attorney and other resources beyond what the shelter is able to provide.
According to the U.S. State Department’s estimate, 5.5 million U.S. citizens live in foreign countries. If U.S. expats were in one state, it would be the 17th largest state in the United States. The CDC-funded National Violence Against Women Survey (Tjaden & Thonnes, 2000) found that approximately 1.3% of American women indicated they had been victims of intimate partner violence in the past 12 months. Based on these estimates, more than 85,000 overseas U.S. citizens may be victims of intimate partner violence each year.
Some of the barriers that U.S. victims of domestic violence can face may include lacking access to proper travel documents for themselves or their children, or lacking permission to leave the country with minors. If the victim is not familiar with the resources available within the country or how to utilize the legal system, it can lead to them feeling more isolated and helpless. If the victim does not speak the language, it can compound these feelings of isolation and helplessness. In some countries, there are no domestic violence laws that can be relied on to offer protection and the support services of local domestic violence programs may be limited or exclusive to citizens.
For U.S. citizens who are abused overseas, or who have fled a foreign country back to the United States for safety, there is an organization that can help. The Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center works with abused U.S. citizens and their children to provide domestic violence and child-abuse advocacy, resources and tools so that they can navigate the complicated jurisdictional, legal and social international landscapes to live their lives free of abuse. Danger-to-safety services provided include safety planning, long-term case management, legal consultations, professional counseling, funds for emergency needs like housing and utilities, and assistance with flights back to the USA. This is achieved via an international toll free crisis line, 866-USWOMEN, which operated 24/7 and is accessible from 175 countries, live-chat on the website and a crisis email.
The Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center, AODVC, will be hosting an information session in Managua on Jan. 30 as part of its “Global Campaign to Empower Americans Abused Abroad.” The information session will be held for the community on Jan. 30 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte. Attendance to the event is free, but donations are suggested and tax deductible.
A member of AODVC will give a presentation on the barriers faced by victims of domestic violence as well as the services the organization has available to U.S. citizens experiencing domestic violence overseas. Volunteer opportunities as a Global Ambassador of AODVC will be part of the discussion. As a volunteer, you would have the opportunity to become active within your local community to bring awareness to the issues of domestic violence. Also, a consular officer from the U.S. Embassy will present on what the Embassy can do to help U.S. citizens experiencing domestic violence in Nicaragua. Collaboration with local anti-domestic violence providers is welcome. If you are interested in having a representative from your program present or table, please contact Rachel Petersen at [email protected].
If you have any questions regarding the event or would like to receive updates on the event, please email Rachel [email protected] or to find out more about the Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center visit our website at www.866uswomen.org.