Domestic Violence and Life Abroad


Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash


The discussion about domestic violence is never an easy one, but it’s importance is not to be dismissed. In today’s article we would like to explore why it is especially significant for expat partners, how to recognize when it is happening, and how to find help.


Expat Partners May be More Vulnerable to Domestic Violence


When partners agree to move abroad, they leave behind their social support and family. On some occasions, the accompanying partner or expat spouse loses their capacity to earn an income due to a lack of job opportunities, work permits, or language barriers. These conditions can create higher dependence, as their working partner becomes the only medium of survival and emotional support.


In these circumstances, it is easier for an abusive partner to take advantage of the situation and control their spouse. Therefore, it is important for the accompanying partner who may suffer from domestic violence to understand that in most countries, the law penalizes domestic violence, and you can ask for help when needed.


What is Domestic Violence?


The United Nations defines domestic violence or domestic abuse as "a pattern of behavior in any relationship used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner." Individuals who perpetrate domestic violence seek to frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. The truth is that anyone can undergo domestic violence, regardless of gender, age, race, or education level. Yet, some individuals are more at risk than others. We seek this article to create awareness and to stay vigilant, especially when living abroad.


How do you know if you or people you know may experience domestic violence? If you are uncertain, HelpGuide.org has a list of signs of an abusive relationship.


How to Find Help Abroad and How to Help Someone?


If you are experiencing domestic violence:

  1. If you feel at this moment that your life, those of your children or someone you know is at danger, call the police immediately.

  2. Find help locally. There are people ready to help you. The International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies: HotPeachesPages offers information on agencies worldwide.

  3. Be prepared. If you fear that your spouse can become violent, WomensLaw.org has safety tips for living safely and safety when preparing to leave an abuser.

  4. The risk does not stop when you leave. Take precautions for you and your loved ones. Parents.com offers some insight into what to consider after leaving an abuser.

  5. If you are a man suffering from domestic violence, HelpGuide.org has some resources that can help you.

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash


If you want to help someone:

  1. If you fear a friend or someone you know might be suffering from domestic abuse, VeryWellMind.com has nine tips on how to help them.

  2. If you witness domestic abuse but are not directly involved, you can take action as a bystander. You can report to the police an incident even if you are not directly involved. Preferably seek consent from the person who is in danger. The American Friends Service Committee describes some do's and don'ts for bystanders, especially when the individual suffering abuse is from a minority or a foreigner.

For the Abusive partner:

  1. If you have found yourself in a situation that harms your partner physically or mentally, TheHotline.org has some information to help abusive partners change their behavior.


A Message of Hope for Expat Women


While this short guide was set to create awareness and start a conversation, the Thriving Aliens community wants you to know that you are not alone. We encourage you to read as much as possible from organizations who are experts in the matter and dedicate themselves to help individuals. In almost all countries, there are a good amount of organizations with a high level of expertise in domestic violence. They will be extremely glad to have you contacting them and asking for assistance.


Everyone deserves to live in peace and love; and abusive behavior is not acceptable. There will never be a perfect time to decide when to speak against your partner’s abusive behavior. Don't feel any guilt about the past, and focus on what you can do today. No one has the right to judge your actions, so do not let negative comments stop you from seeking help.


You are a brave woman, but you don’t have to do this alone.


*Note: Thriving Aliens is an online platform that seeks to create a safe space and inspire women who want to thrive abroad. We might not be able to offer help for individuals affected by domestic violence, but in the links provided above, you might find the help you seek.


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©2020 by Thriving Aliens