For the past few months, I have been volunteering as the representative for the American Women’s Club to FAWCO (Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas). FAWCO is a great organization that does many things to better the lives of expats and women everywhere. One of the causes this year is Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center. On behalf of the AWC, I got to go to an awareness meeting on Saturday to learn about the organization as well as learn how to pass the information to others.
Dealing with everything from banking to housing is more complicated when you are living in a foreign country and so it is no surprise to learn that getting out of a domestic violence situation would also be more difficult. Truthfully, luckily, thankfully, I have never given any thought to having to get out of an abusive home, but I have seen movies and know that if you need to get away you pack your stuff and your kids, put them in the car and drive to your mama’s house. Obviously, most situations are more complicated than that but LEGALLY there is nothing stopping someone in the US from leaving and filing for divorce. Overseas, the typical reaction to flee the country with your children is sometimes impossible and often wrong. Many women overseas are either trailing spouses or have moved to her husband’s country and only have money that is provided to them and would have no means of purchasing a ticket away. The founder of the Crisis Hotline was delayed leaving her abusive husband for years because he had hidden their three sons’ passports and it takes both parents to get another one issued. Read her story here. Sometimes leaving the country is possible but not advisable because of the Hague Convention treaty on child custody. You can be forced to bring your children back to the country of ‘habitual residence’ in order for custody to be determined as well as face criminal international kidnapping charges. For many women in foreign countries there is also a language barrier that prevents then from getting the proper help.
The Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center is a hotline that is available from almost every country in the world and they are staffed with people who are familiar with how to handle the complications that arise from escaping while living abroad. They have international family lawyers who donate hour long legal advisory meetings, and if leaving the country is possible, they (with the help of Virgin Airlines) can help get families to the US. It is an amazing service run by an amazing woman by the name of Paula Lucas.
Please don’t hesitate to pass on this information to anyone you know who is living overseas that may need help. You can call them with the country’s AT&T access code followed by 866-USWOMEN. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to their live chat on their website 866uswomen.org.
I’ll be back to blogging about happier topics on the next entry but sometimes information can be too important to be left unsaid/unblogged.