Culturally Sensitive Services
The Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center is the only nongovernmental organization that specializes in serving Americans experiencing domestic violence overseas. As experts in the field, AODVC believes that while domestic violence is not a by-product of culture, domestic violence survivors abroad face additional barriers that require culturally sensitive services and intercultural awareness.
The Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center offers a continuum of culturally sensitive services. AODVC provides long term case management from advocates with intercultural backgrounds and experience working with domestic violence survivors, who have been specifically trained and are knowledgeable on the additional obstacles that American survivors overseas face. Our advocates assist with international danger to safety relocation, specialized international safety planning, referrals to seasoned international family law attorneys experienced with the Hague and international child custody cases, international transition services, and assistance with housing and other basic needs when a survivor has left her abuser, may it be back in the United States or in another area of the world.
Having ten years of experience, AODVC equips all advocates and volunteers with specialized intercultural domestic violence training. AODVC requires all volunteers to have completed basic DV101 training, in addition to the AODVC training, before answering the crisis line. The AODVC training provides information on cultural sensitivity and intercultural domestic violence services, equipping advocates and volunteers with the necessary tools to best assist American survivors of domestic violence abroad.
What is Domestic Violence?
"Domestic Violence is a pattern of coercive behavior that is used by a person against family or household members or dating partners to gain power or control over the other party in a relationship. This behavior may include any of the following: physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological intimidation, verbal abuse and threats, stalking, isolation from friends and family, economic control, destruction of personal property and animal cruelty."
Maine Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2001)
Barriers to American Survivors Living Abroad
No access to travel documents
Abusers at times hide or destroy passports, visas, birth certificates and other necessary documents
- No permission to leave country
In some countries, travel bans can be legally filed on survivors and children, barring them from leaving the country.
- Abuser may be high ranking in the American Embassy, local government or corporation
- Does not speak the language
- Unfamiliarity with resources and legal system
- No domestic violence laws
- Local services may not be accessible to non-citizens
- Undocumented legal status
Obstacles Facing Survivors After Returning
- May be homeless, penniless and will probably not be able to recover any personal possessions or assets.
- Protracted international custody cases
- Locating and paying for an international family law attorney
- Reverse culture shock
- Lack of support network
- Does not qualify for services such as shelter transitional housing
- Difficulty finding employment due to a gap in work history
- Credit history does not transfer from abroad
- Abuser might have contacts in US looking for the survivor and children
- Difficulty enforcing US alimony and child support orders in foreign countries.
International Family Law Implications
- Through an international treaty, Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, an abuser can force a fleeing survivor to return the children to the foreign country.
- The Hague Convention has no stated exception for domestic violence.
- Abusers can also use other custody laws such as Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to gain custody of the children.
There are defenses to these actions. Survivors need to consult with an International Family Lawyer to assess their options.
The Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center provides a full range of culturally appropriate services including:
- Developing long lasting working relationships with survivors to assist them from danger to self sufficiency both overseas and back in the US.
- Comprehensive safety planning
- Assistance obtaining travel documents
- Danger-to-safety relocation
- Travel logistics and discounted airfare
- Advocate for safe housing
- Pro-bono attorney consultation and referrals
- Telephone counseling and reintegration therapy
- Assistance with emergency and basic needs
All services are free and confidential