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A Call for Action - US Department of State Refusal to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence Living Abroad

In 1980, the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction was created in order to return children who had been abducted by a parent who moved to another country. The people drafting the treaty thought the typical abductor would be a noncustodial father whisking his kids off to a foreign country, leaving mom with little recourse to try to get her children back.

However, time has shown that 68% of the abducting parents are in fact mothers fleeing abusive spouses, and the failure of the host country’s judicial system to protect them. The treaty, instead of protecting women and children, is being used as a tool by violent and abusive husbands and fathers to persecute and continuing harassing and torturing victims for years on end.  

As one mother involved in a Hague Convention case said “Basically, there’s three choices in these situations…1. You stay in those conditions and you survive as long as you can. 2. You walk away from your child and you walk away. 3. You run, with your child. So there’s three. That’s it.” 

Or as As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer put it in the recent Supreme Court case Abbott v. Abbott, “She has to choose between her life and her child -- is that what this convention is aimed at?”

The testimonies presented in Abbott vs. Abbott are both chilling and terrifying. 

- “Claudia went to the police, who told her to go to the Red Cross, who told her to come back in two days when the bruises were visible, only to turn her away two days later, saying they couldn’t help her after the fact. Claudia had no one to defend her, and Raul was well-connected, both to powerful politicians and to drug dealers… Eight months after she came to the U.S., Raul filed a Hague petition and had the police remove the children from her custody…”

- “While there, Jennifer has not been able to work because of her citizenship status and is not fluent in the language… On one occasion, she called the police to intervene in a violent incident. The police told Jennifer that she was crazy and they cautioned Lawrence to ―guard the son’s paper since he was married to an American woman…”

- "Once in the [host] country, Michael told Lindsey that he did not want to return to the U.S. Lindsey felt she had been ―tricked and ―trapped, especially after she had her first son… Michael ripped up her passport and the passport of one of her sons. Michael told Lindsey she would never leave, telling her ways (he could) kill her… She had been told by others in the other country that a person could be detained in a psychiatric hospital if a spouse and a psychiatrist agreed they were mentally ill. Lindsey feared that her husband was trying to have her hospitalized and trying to win the support of the psychiatrist…Six months after returning to the US, Lindsey received a Hague petition in the mail from Michael… After losing her appeal, she was ordered to return the children to the [host] country…”

- “A year after leaving, Sarah was served with Hague papers. The case went to trial several months later, and the children were returned to Miguel. Sarah then learned that Miguel had filed criminal kidnapping charges against her for leaving with her children… Sarah is now in hiding with her sons in the U.S…”

 - "Amy said ―we became prisoners, because they were isolated in the country, with no money and no help from the police. Amy found pictures taken by Raymond of the children naked with their genitals exposed. She talked to the U.S. consulate staff who advised her that she could go home to the U.S. for a visit with the children… Raymond filed a Hague petition a few months later… Amy has been living in various shelters in the U.S. since…”

- “During the court case, there was information presented from a school psychologist that there was possible sexual abuse of the daughter by Marco. However, the judge insisted that this was not a ―grave [issue] as the children were not going to a war zone… A month after filing the Hague petition, local courts in the [host] country gave Marco sole custody of the children and Janet had no contact with her children for six months. …She still is not able to have regular phone contact with her children who are still living in the [host] country with her abusive ex-husband."

What is more alarming, however, is the fact that American Consulates abroad are refusing to provide any assistance to these American women and children; assistance which is their right under US federal and international law.

In their refusal to assist, not only is the US government illegally refusing to defend & protect the rights of these citizens, but the FBI & Interpol are hunting them down, with children returned to abusers and mothers imprisoned for kidnapping.  

For the past 7 years, I myself have been embroiled in one such international divorce in Spain, and have been run through the gauntlet of the entire process – the stress and torture is horrific. From the beginning I have sought help from my Consulate in Madrid, and later the State Department in Washington, DC. But, the only response to my pleas for help have been repeated referrals to the list of lawyers on their website ― knowing full well that 3 of the lawyers implicated in the constant violation of my rights over the years came from the Embassy’s website!!

But, my case is no longer just about fighting for & defending my rights in foreign courts. It is now about challenging the US government’s refusal to assist the 100,000’s of victims living abroad. And, it is about making sure that American Consulates overseas start providing the services that they are obligated by law to provide; and which are included in State Department guidelines & directives.

Please join me in preventing more pain and torture of these poor, suffering women & children by signing the petition on change.org http://www.change.org/petitions/rep-carolyn-maloney-over-sight-hearing-us-dept-of-state-refusal-to-p...

Thank you,

Quenby Wilcox

Founder – Global Expats | www.global-xpats.com | quenby@global-xpats.com 

Editor-in-Chief, Family Courts in Crisis Newsletter – http://worldpulse.com/node/71182

Linkedin Profile – www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Quenby/Wilcox 

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