Domestic abuse can potentially impact any Fund employee or family member. The following information about the nature of domestic abuse and resources for victims, abusers, co-workers and managers has been compiled by HRD and IMFFA.
1.Impact of Domestic Abuse in the Workplace
Domestic abuse can impact any Fund employee or family member. Even when the abuse occurs at home, it can affect the workplace. At the least, a victim may find it difficult to concentrate on work tasks, and at the worst may feel that their personal safety or that of their colleagues in the workplace is being threatened by the abuser. When a Fund employee is the abuser, there are implications regarding the violation of U.S. laws, non-compliance with court orders for family support, and the potential abuse of benefits and visa privileges provided by the Fund.
As an international organization, the Fund faces unique challenges in this arena. Spouses and partners may feel especially vulnerable if they are socially isolated, separated from extended family support systems, have language difficulties, or lack independence regarding their financial or visa status.
In addressing the issue of domestic abuse, the Fund strives to reduce the escalation of abuse through early intervention by a confidential assessment of the individual circumstances, referrals to the appropriate internal and external resources, and limited free legal aid for victims of domestic abuse.
2.Domestic Abuse and Fund Standards of Conduct
The Fund is strongly committed to raising awareness and providing support to victims of domestic abuse. To this end, we work closely with the World Bank, through the office of the Domestic Abuse Prevention Coordinator, to provide specialized counseling and referral, compliance with court orders, and limited financial support for legal aid for victims of domestic abuse who are either staff or spouses/partners. With regard to offenders, while the Fund respects the privacy of its staff members and does not wish to interfere with their personal lives, it does take very seriously a staff member’s violation of U.S. laws, including those pertaining to domestic abuse and violent behavior. Violations of local laws and other conduct that may reflect adversely on the integrity or reputation of the Fund may subject staff to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
3.Understanding Domestic Abuse & the Abuser
Domestic abuse is driven by the need for power and control. Physical violence and sexual assaults are its most apparent forms. Another form is emotional abuse, which includes control over decision-making, finances, and the victim’s social contacts, intimidation through threats and destruction of property, mind-games, verbal abuse, and humiliation. Women are the primary targets, but men and children may be victims as well. Abusers and victims come from all racial, religious, educational and economic backgrounds.
Domestic abuse is not caused by the victim’s actions, or by the abuser’s stress level or use of alcohol or drugs, although these do make the abuser less likely to control violent tendencies. Abusive behavior stems from a personality disorder which requires treatment. Only when the abuser undergoes treatment and chooses to stop the abusive behavior is it useful for the couple to be in counseling. In cases where there is violent behavior, it may be safer for the victim (and children) to leave the household.
Fear of retribution for leaving, emotional or economic dependency, and concerns about children or visa status are some of the reasons why a victim remains in an abusive relationship. Often, the victim is convinced that the “good” side of the abuser’s dual personality is the true person and the “bad” side will go away. This is reinforced by the apologetic and loving behavior of the abuser following an incident of abuse, prompted by the abuser’s fear of consequences like abandonment by the victim, court involvement, etc. The victim’s attempts to leave or even to confront the abuser could enrage the abuser, thereby becoming the trigger for another attack.
4.Domestic Abuse & U.S. Law
Domestic violence is a crime that is punishable under U.S. law. Abusers who are employees of international organizations are not immune from criminal prosecution by virtue of their employment status. If police are called to the scene and determine that domestic violence probably occurred, they are legally required to make an arrest. Alternatively, the victim could file a police report after the incident, along with evidence of abuse such as photographs or medical records.
Victims often refrain from taking action to protect themselves for fear that the abuser will go to jail. However, the Domestic Violence Intake Center (see resource list below) can assist with obtaining a Civil Protection Order (CPO), which can order the abuser to stop the abusive behavior or even to stay away from the home and avoid any contact with the victim. It takes approximately two weeks from the date a petition is filed to obtain a CPO. If protection is needed in the interim, a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) can be issued on the same day it is requested. These orders are not the same as making a criminal complaint and will not result in a criminal record or jail time for the abuser. For tips on ensuring your safety when going to the courthouse, click here.
5.When the Victim is Not a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
Fund spouses may find themselves isolated in a foreign country, and unable to leave an abusive home for fear of losing access to their G-4 visa and work authorization. But there is protection under U.S. immigration law for victims of domestic violence who have suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” as the result of domestic violence. If the abuser is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR), the spouse victim may qualify for a self-petition to apply for an LPR visa without the help of the abuser. If the victim is not related to the abuser by marriage, or if the abuser is not a U.S. citizen or LPR, the victim may qualify for a “U” visa. Documented evidence of abuse is a requirement for both visas. Both visa options include children under age 21, as well as eligibility for work authorization. It is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney regarding these options. For more information, click here.
6.What You Can Do to Help
Domestic abuse is difficult to identify. Physical violence is manifested by bruises and other injuries, but these are often explained away by the victim as “accidents.” Emotional abuse does not have unique signs, and a victim could exhibit symptoms of emotional or psychological distress that are common to other types of personal problems.
Nonetheless, Fund staff know the behavior patterns of colleagues working alongside them. Take note if something seems awry, such as frequent bruises or accidents, chronic pain, uncharacteristic moodiness, treating one’s partner as omnipotent, changes in performance or social behavior. It is appropriate to approach a colleague and express concern that she or he may be having some personal difficulty and you are available to help. This creates an opportunity for the victim to open up.
Even if the abuse is not acknowledged, a concerned co-worker or manager can leave the individual helpful information about counseling and other resources available within and outside the Fund. Emotional support is of tremendous value to victims of domestic abuse, and it is advisable to give positive reinforcement to help a victim regain self-esteem and control over his or her own life, without judgment or pressure. Co-workers can also assist by accompanying the victim to court hearings and other appointments, helping with children, or offering temporary shelter. Staff who have survived abusive experiences may be willing to share them, so that other victims realize they are not alone and there is support for them in the workplace.
Managers can encourage a working environment that makes it safe for staff to divulge that they are dealing with a difficult personal situation, so that concerns about invasion of privacy do not result in the lack of support that might have been needed and accepted. Managers can also support increased flexibility in a victim’s work schedule and liberal leave usage for court appearances or other contingencies that may arise.
7.If Physical Violence is a Concern-
If physical violence is a concern, a co-worker can encourage and facilitate the development of a safety plan—a quick escape route, emergency housing with friends, family or shelter, keeping copies of important documents, access to funds, etc. If you feel you are in immediate physical danger, do not hesitate to call 911 and say that you are reporting a domestic violence case.
Staff who are victims of stalking or physical violence can provide Fund Security with a photo of the abuser to protect themselves as well as their colleagues.
8.Available Resources for Victims
Bank/Fund Domestic Abuse Prevention Coordinator
Elizabeth Legrain serves the staff and spouses of the Bank, Fund and IADB as a Domestic Abuse Prevention Coordinator. Ms. Legrain is a central confidential point of contact for assessing individual needs, identifying key concerns to be addressed and making appropriate referrals to resources within the Fund and the local community. She can be reached at (202) 473-2931.
IMFFA: The IMF Family Association has a Chair in charge of giving support to victims of Domestic Abuse. The Chair is especially useful spouses. She will help them navigate the Fund, give them information and provide as much support as she can. She can be contacted by calling IMFFA at (202) 623 5483 or directly at Nathalie Fischer (301) 3329211 and Felix_nathalie@hotmail.com.
Through a referral from the Domestic Abuse Prevention Coordinator, Fund staff and spouses have access to limited, free legal counseling with external legal experts regarding complex issues such as family law and protection orders. Please note, however, that this does not include legal representation in court.
10.Counseling services and Hotline (free and confidential):HSD’s counseling unit provides services only to the staff member. However, the Fund has a program, the Family Consultation Service (FCS), to provide counseling services for Fund spouses, partners and family members. The FCS is a resource for those seeking assistance with cultural adjustment, normal life transitions, professional identity, family and personal development, separation and divorce, emotional and physical abuse, and information about community resources.
Family Consultation Service (FCS)
Location: Washington, DC
Hours:: 24/7 – always available
More info at :
11.Domestic Abuse Hotline:
24/7 Free Confidential Helpline::+1-202-458-5800
This is a free-of-charge service created specifically to provide an around-the-clock helpline for crisis assistance to WBG/IMF staff and spouses/families who are in abusive relationships. Confidential and free counseling and related supportive services are provided by experienced counselors who are trained to work with individuals and families dealing with domestic violence, cultural issues, stress, family and interpersonal conflict, and transition. Counseling can be provided in many languages other than English.
Domestic Violence Shelters
Community Legal Services:
- DC Area Legal Resources
- Columbus Community Legal Services (202) 319-6788
- Ayuda(Spanish speaking) (202) 387-0434
International Travel with Minor Children:
Other Resources for Abuse Victims
- DC Area Domestic Violence Resources
- DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- “Not to People Like Us”- Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- The Women’s Center
- Emerge – Counseling & Education to Stop Domestic Violence
13.Help for Abusers
Help is available for individuals who want to overcome abusive behavior patterns. Staff have access to confidential counseling in the Bank/Fund Health Services Department. Contact the Personal and Work Stress Counseling Unit of HSD at (202) 458-4456. Spouses and partners can use the Family Consultation Services at the Washington School of Psychiatry at (202) 363-6361.