Letters to US State Department & White House: 2007 - 2013
Please see attached letters below, to the following:
- President Barak Obama, White House
- White House Council on Women and Girls (Valerie Jarrett)
US DEPARTMENT OF STATE - Washington, DC
- The Honorable US Secretary of State John Kerry
- Under Secretary of Management (Patrick F. Kennedy)
- Office of Global Women's Issues (Melanne Verveer, Emily Kearney, Tricia Keller, Jen Klein, Justin Sosne, Rachel Tulchin, Kristen Tymeson)
- Consular Affairs (Janice L. Jacobs)
- Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management (Joyce Namde, Joanne Hunter )
- Overseas Citizens Services (Jim D. Pettit)
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (Michael H. Posner)
- Office of Global Criminal Justice (Stephen J. Rapp, Beth Van Schaack)
AMERICAN EMBASSY - Madrid, Spain
- Embassy of the United States Spain (Ambassador Alan D. Solomont)
- Correspondence with American Embassy in Madrid & US Department of State 2007-2010 & 2013 RE Gonzalez de Alcala vs. Wilcox
Dear Mr. Secretary Kerry,
I am contacting you regarding an issue that is receiving increasing awareness amongst communities around the world; domestic abuse and violence as a human rights violation and a State’s obligation to protect under the principle of due diligence, as establish by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Gonzales vs. USA and Velasquez vs. Honduras, and the European Courts of Human Rights in A vs. UK.
"Under international law, a State may be responsible for acts of violence against women committed by non-state actors if it fails with due diligence to prevent, stop and investigate acts of violence, punish perpetrators and provide compensation to the victims, as specified in General Recommendation 19 (1992) of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The legal concept of due diligence clarifies the responsibility of States to make women’s rights a reality. This responsibility is enshrined within the established requirement of exercising due diligence to respect, protect, fulfill and promote human rights. Exercising due diligence includes actions with respect to prevention, investigation of violations of human rights that have occurred and prosecution of perpetrators through fair proceedings. It also requires that adequate reparations be made to victims, including compensation, justice and ‘rehabilitation’.
Decreasing the prevalence of violence against women requires challenging its acceptance, especially the many ways in which victims/survivors are blamed and perpetrators excused, transforming the diverse cultures of complicity and impunity across the globe.
The failure of justice systems across the globe to effectively charge, investigate and prosecute human rights violations against women and girls has resulted in a system of global impunity for perpetrators, which must be urgently addressed.
The right not to be abused must be absolute. States have the responsibility to address all violations of women’s human rights that take place on their territory and/or are committed by [or against] their citizens in extra-territorial contexts." ("Good Practices in Combating and Eliminating Violence Against Women" by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women.)
One out of every three women, or almost 1 billion women around the world, experiences domestic abuse during her life-time, with the following global consequences and health-related issues:
• 40-70% of women murdered each year are killed by intimate partners
• Over 64 million women each year suffer intentional and unintentional injuries
• Over 100 million women each year suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders
• Over 100 million maternal and perinatal conditions and complications occur
• 20 million people are victims of human trafficking
• Widespread sexual harassment and bullying in the work-place, schools, and communities
The enormity of the problem and its detrimental effects on societies around the world are of epic proportions, and can no longer be considered “private matters” or “civil disputes” by law enforcement officials, judicial tribunals, or government and non-government agencies.
As my own case and research demonstrates, until and unless judicial actors are held accountable for their failure to execute their duties and obligations as provided for under the law, progressive laws, government promises, and millions of dollars spent on awareness and action campaigns will be totally ineffective in eradicating domestic abuse and violence.
The US government and US State Department are continually espousing their commitment to combating and ending violence and discrimination against women, promoting democratic principles worldwide, and protecting human rights and labor rights around the world. However, when it comes to American women living overseas and the US State Department, Consular Affairs Division’s day-to-day operations, the rhetoric does not translate into reality.
As so many advocates, I have become aware of and involved in the issues due to my own personal experience as a victim of domestic abuse, and re-victimization by the very judicial systems (in Spain) which have a duty and obligation under international human rights law to protect me and my children.
The US State Department estimates that 5.25 million Americans reside abroad, with 650,000 women and children at risk of becoming victims of domestic abuse and violence. In 2012 the American Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center (AODVC – www.866uswomen.org) handled 3005 crisis calls, emails & live chats directly from, or on behalf of 547 victims (544 females, 3 males) in 57 countries (UK, Canada, Costa Rica, Turkey, Russia, UAE, Germany, Pakistan, Switzerland, Croatia, being the most frequent.) Ninety-nine of these cases were affected by the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which represents 29% of incoming Hague abduction cases handled by the Office of Child’s Issues of the US State Department in 2012. At year-end of 2012 AODVC was handling 124 on-going cases.
As reported by the Hague Convention Domestic Violence Project (www.haguedv.org/reports) 70% of women involved in international child abduction cases under the Hague Convention are fleeing domestic abuse and the failure of judicial systems to protect them and their children. Abbott vs. Abbott (2010) (www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-645.pdf) brought these issues to the attention of the US Supreme Court.
Between 2010-2012 the Office of Child’s Issues, Consular Division of the US State Department handled 890 incoming Hague Convention on international child abduction cases, with up to 70%, or 623 cases, potentially involving a protective parent fleeing domestic abuse and a Receiving State’s failure to protect. While I have been unable to obtain figures from the US State Department on the annual budget for the Office of Child’s Issues, the 2012 budget for “Strengthening Consular and Management Capabilities” was $3.75 billion. Effectively, millions of dollars per year of the Consular Affairs Division’s budget are used in supporting the on-going abuse of thousands of Americans, while none of their resources are being used to assist the victims.
Abusers are well aware of the criminal implications, the stringent sanctions, and incarceration of those who resort to international child abduction, and are freely and frequently using the Hague Convention as a tool to intimidate and abuse their victims. They do so knowing full well that victims will not be assisted by Receiving State’s judicial and law enforcement systems, nor will they be assisted by Sending State’s Consulates, consular affairs division in Sending State’s headquarters, or Sending State’s judicial system, which are plagued by the same “failure to protect” due to the same “lack of diligence” as in the Receiving State.
In my own case my ex-husband repeatedly assure me from the onset that I would be left penniless and incarcerated (prison or psychiatric facility); claiming that all “had been planned.” At the time, I thought his contention was just another example of his schizophrenic, hallucinatory state. But, statistics and documented testimonies show that this is an increasing phenomenon amongst victims of domestic abuse. In my own case all of my assets were illegally misappropriated by the courts and the negligence of my legal counsel, with my incarceration a very real possibility on several occasions.
Then, when I confronted my lawyers (recommended on the American Embassy website) with their overt negligent actions and the violation of my rights, I was always told “Lady, we do this all the time. Who are you going to tell?” And, effectively my petition to the Defensor del Pueblo, Consejo General del Poder Judicial and Instituto de Mujer for an investigation into my case and allegations was totally ignored, even though the professional and criminal negligence of implicated parties is well detailed, documented, and argued (posted on http://worldpulse.com/node/52011 and http://worldpulse.com/node/50602, respectively.)
The culture of “laissez faire” and silencing of victims, apathy of law enforcement and judicial actors towards the plight of victims, failure of judicial regulatory agencies to diligently investigate complaints & sanction infractions of judicial actors, coupled with consular affairs representatives’ non-compliance with art. 5, 36, 37 & 38 of the Convention on Consular Relations and FAM guidelines (victims of crimes/domestic abuse), inter alia, provide the motive, opportunity, and means for abusers to utilize judicial systems and government institutions to freely and overtly continue abusing and harassing their victims.
Of additional importance for the US government and US State Department, as my particular case demonstrates, is how American entrepreneurs in their business dealings abroad are open to corruption and discrimination in foreign courts. And, how the lack of due diligence by, and apathy of, US State Department officials permit unfair trade practices and misappropriation of American assets by foreign courts.
As the American Consulate in Madrid has been aware from the beginning of my case, the escalation of violence and threats upon my life by my ex-husband’s were caused by my desire and efforts to provide financial independence for me and my children. My company, Global Expats (www.global-xpats.com) is modeled after the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas (FAWCO), but is a revenue-generating entity which remunerates its trailing spouse managers and employees, as well as assistants them in career maintenance and entrepreneurial efforts. Revenues are generated from a networking/local search-city guide global website with estimate lost opportunity costs at $200 million to date.
The disinterest and negligence of the American Consulate in Madrid and US State Department, Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management in Washington, DC, in the past 6 years and in regard to my case, has not only been responsibility for millions of dollars in lost revenues of my company, but prevented the creation of hundreds of jobs of American women living abroad.
International organizations such as the IMF, World Bank, and United Nations are increasingly examining the link between corruption and the present economic crisis. My case provided a perfect case-study on how and why widespread corruption in the courts impedes economic growth and entrepreneurial development, and the role negligent governance by regulatory agencies is playing in promoting judicial corruption.
In order to effectively protect and promote the interests of Americans living abroad, it is imperative that American Embassies and Consulates abroad comply with the guidelines in U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7 - Consular Affairs (FAM), and utilize their prerogatives provided for in art. 5, 36, 37 & 38 of the Convention of Consular Affairs, and other international treaties, in assuring due process and respect for the rights of American citizens in foreign jurisdictions.
I hope by bringing these issues to your attention the US State Department will reassess their policy of non-compliance with FAM, the Convention on Consular Affairs, and other international treaties which provide them with the power and authority to promote and defend the interests and rights of Americans living abroad.
I thank you in advance for your time and consideration. Please feel free to contact me at Quenby@global-xpats.com or (202) 213-4911 with any questions or requests for additional information.
Dear Ambassador Verveer,
With the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women convening this month, and the elimination and prevention of violence against women at its fore-front, I would like to take the opportunity to bring several issues to the attention of the Office of Global Women’s Issues.
Efforts of organizations and individuals across the globe in the past 40 years have done much to bring awareness to gender-based violence and discrimination against women in societies around the world, with initiatives focused on:
• Passage of national legislation and international treaties
• Creation of government and non-government organizations whose mission is to advance the rights of women and assist victims of domestic violence
• Publically funded, awareness and publicity campaigns
• Access to higher-education and work opportunities for women outside of the home
• Access to reproductive health-care and contraceptives
However, what these initiatives fail to recognize or address are to what extent the deeply rooted and entrenched customs and traditions in a society sustain and encourage violence and abuses of power (visible and invisible) in the community.
These initiatives work under the assumption that individuals in a society will voluntarily and automatically change their actions, opinions, biases and/or the basic tenants under which they live. The continual lack of analysis and re-evaluation of the effectiveness, and results these initiatives produce in a society, from an intersectional perspective, is sorely lacking in government based studies, reports, and political rhetoric.
For example, a widespread government initiative in response to domestic violence has been the criminalization of these acts. But, a common response in countries around the world has been court biases that silence victims. Women who denounce the abuse and their abusers are labeled liars, “mentally-deranged,” and/or “gold-diggers,” seeking to gain an advantage in financial settlements and custodial decisions during divorce. Statistics show that judges do not even consider domestic abuse in their deliberations, and are awarding custody to fathers at a rate of 94%, dropping to 70% in cases of physical and sexual abuse of children.
Another frequent problem society’s are encountering, as domestic violence becomes socially unacceptable, is that physical violence from one generation is replaced by heightened psychological abuse in the next generation. Unfortunately, awareness campaigns and social perceptions of abuse focus only on extreme physical and sexual violence. The damage psychological abuse does to its victims is not even considered significant or relevant, even though all victims attest (and studies show) that psychological scars are the most profound, damaging, and lasting.
Even government initiatives such as the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction and its coverage in the press are exposing biases towards fathers in our societies. Statistics are reflecting failure rates in family courts to be 70-90% globally, with almost 70% of the women involved in international child abduction fleeing domestic abuse and the failure of judicial systems to protect . However, this phenomenon is receiving no coverage in the press, while the plight of “left behind fathers” is getting extensive exposure. Additionally, Congressional support of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, coupled with extensive assistance offered by the Office of Children’s Issues/US State Department to petitioning parents, demonstrate a bias by the US government of abusers’ rights over victims’ rights, and de facto discrimination against women.
In my own personal dealing with the US State Department, Consular Affairs Division, I have repeatedly been told that American victims of domestic abuse living abroad, experiencing problems with judicial systems (and their failure to protect,) are “private matters” and “civil disputes.” The US State Department’s policy of non-assistance to American expatriated victims of abuse is clearly in violation of international law. Under this situation, in accordance with international law, the US government potentially becomes responsible for human rights violations even when those violations occur in a foreign jurisdiction.
In your capacity as Ambassador-at-Large with the objective to “provide advice and assistance on issues related to promoting gender equality and advancing the status of women and girls internationally, ” reporting to the Honorable John Kerry, US Secretary of State in order to “lead efforts to promote an international focus on gender equality more broadly, including through diplomatic initiatives with other countries and partnerships and enhanced coordination with international and nongovernmental organizations and the private sector, ” request that you encourage the Consular Affairs Division of the US State Department to:
• Thoroughly review recent reports and statistics regarding the elevated rate of “taking persons” (apx. 70%) involved in international child abduction under the Hague Convention, who are fleeing domestic abuse and the failure to protect of Receiving States. (For your convenience please find a list of informative resources after the closure of this letter.)
• Rescind their policy of non-assistance to American expatriated citizens in cases of domestic abuse, divorce and/or custodial procedures, and under this policy their non-compliance with the US Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Vol. 7 - Consular Affairs (FAM 7,) and Convention of Consular Relations (calling attention to art. 5 and 36 - see “detained in any manner” which applies to these cases due to the inability of minor children to leave a Receiving States in cases of a court ne exeat order , and/or any provision of domestic law requiring dual parental permission of “exit,” as well as cases involving the retention of assets, by the courts, a spouse, any trustee, and/or negligence of legal counsel thereby preventing said person’s ability to travel.)
• Examine and take positive action to reverse the de facto discrimination against women, produced by the Consular Affairs Division’s policy of substantial assistance to “applicants” , but refusal of assistance to American victims of domestic abuse residing outside of the United States, whereas the failure of Receiving State’s judicial system to “protect,” and/or respect and uphold the rights of victims is documented at rates of 70+%.
I hope by bringing these issues to the attention of the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the Department of State, the US government and its agencies will be encouraged to assist organizations across the globe who are developing programs, initiatives and protocol which promote good practices, transparency, and accountability within judicial systems and family courts. In this way not only can the promotion of democratic principles and practices be advanced worldwide, but violence and discrimination against women may be effectively and comprehensively eradicated.
Global Expats whole-heartedly supports the participation of both spouses in child-rearing and the growing phenomenon of male-homemaker/female bread-winner (or same sex) households. We recognize that promoting equality of the sexes in any society means a changing role for both men and women in socio-economic structures. We are also well aware of the complications and challenges that globalization presents to the family, and how those stressors may serve as a catalyst for separations, divorce and/or domestic abuse.
Our mission is to assure that expatriated families are provided will all of the tools necessary for a successful expatriation, building strong family ties and healthy, productive relationships. Our goal is to prevent dynamics that produce ruptures or abusive relationships within the home, with a focus on early detection and proper prevention, rather than crisis management. However, we are firm in the conviction that the interests of children, meaning their safety, security, and well-being is of primary and utmost concern, and is an obligation and duty of all parties concerned.
I thank you in advance for your time and consideration, and remain entirely at the disposition of you or your staff for any questions or clarifications.
LIST OF RESOURCES:
1. Hague Convention Domestic Violence Project - www.haguedv.org
2. DV Leap – George Washington University Legal Clinic - www.dvleap.org
3. The Leadership Council - www.leadershipcouncil.org
4. Submission to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women - http://worldpulse.com/node/55730 (with extensive reports by Amnesty International and United Nations Commissions included in research material.)
5. National Safe Child Coalition - www.nationalsafechildcoalition.com