Weaving a Global Safety Net
As we have entered into an era of globalization, the number of Americans living in foreign countries is continuously growing. Unfortunately, the constitutional freedoms and rights of Americans do not always cross international borders, especially in terms of domestic violence. There is an immense gap in resources for and awareness of Americans living overseas who are experiencing domestic violence. According to the US State Department estimate in 2015, 9 million American civilians live in foreign countries and 80 million travel abroad every year. This means that 25% of the American population will go overseas.
While there are considerable numbers of Americans overseas who lack domestic violence resources and services, the awareness and representation of this population is miniscule. A pioneer in the field, Pathways to Safety International (Formerly AODVC) is the only organization whose sole purpose is to serve this underserved population. From its almost 20 years of experience serving this population and advocating for survivors of abuse overseas, Pathways is knowledgeable on the specific obstacles and barriers that is endured by this population. Americans who experience domestic violence while living abroad face a magnitude of difficulties on top of the painful and horrific experiences that all domestic violence survivors undergo within their own countries.
Barriers faced by American survivors while living abroad include (but are not limited to):
- No access to travel documents
- No permission to leave 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
- Domestic violence may not be illegal in country of residence
- Local services may not be accessible to non-citizens
- Undocumented legal status
Obstacles facing survivors after returning include (but are not limited to):
- May be homeless, penniless, and will probably not be able to recover any personal possessions or assets
- International child 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 or transitional housing
- Difficulty finding employment due to a gap in work history
- Credit history does not transfer from abroad
- Abuser might have contacts in U.S. looking for the survivor and children
- Difficulty enforcing U.S. alimony and child support orders in foreign countries
The lack of awareness, combined with the shortage of resources, further victimizes Americans experiencing domestic violence abroad. To address this issue, the Pathways to Safety International has launched its “Weaving a Global Safety Net Campaign.” This campaign aims to increase global awareness of American overseas interpersonal and gender based violence survivors, while also making the services of Pathways known and accessible to those who need it. The end result of the campaign is to empower this underserved population by amplifying their voices and providing them with the advocacy, resources, and tools to navigate the complicated jurisdictional, legal & social international landscapes, so that they may live their lives free of abuse either in the foreign country or back in the United States.
Please encourage anyone you know who is suffering abuse to access the specialized services offered free of charge by calling Pathways’s international 24-hour toll-free crisis line so that American survivors and their children can live free of abuse either in the foreign country or back in the US.
If you are interested in having Pathways provide a webinar or in person training, please contact our Global Safety Net office. We are excited to share our innovative work and best practices serving survivors abroad, and to share our work to prevent violence and encourage healing through healthy relationships and community.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding the Weaving a Global Safety Net Campaign.