JCU Welcomes Paula Lucas for a Lecture on Preventing Domestic Violence Abroad

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Paula Lucas

Paula Lucas

On March 23, JCU welcomed Paula Lucas, CEO and founder of the Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center (AODVC), for a lecture on “Weaving a Global Safety Net.” The AODVC works with abused Americans in foreign countries to provide domestic violence and child abuse advocacy, resources, and tools so that they can live their lives free of abuse either in the foreign country or back in the US.

JCU President Franco Pavoncello gave a brief introduction to the topic and welcomed Shannon McCarthy, President of the American Women’s Association of Rome, to the podium. Sharon gave a quick history of AODVC a brief biography of Paula Lucas.

Paula Lucas began with her personal story, reading excerpts from her book Harvesting Stones. She was in a physically abusive relationship abroad, in Saudi Arabia, for twelve years. Her husband made escape almost impossible by hiding the American passports of their three children. Paula finally maneuvered their escape to the US, but her nightmare didn’t end there. Her husband pursued her in America, chasing her down the Oregon Coast during the summer of 1999. She knew that a moving target was harder to find, so she moved her three children from homeless shelter to campsite until finally winning full custody and legal protection from her husband.

Sharon McCarthy and President Pavoncello

Sharon McCarthy and President Pavoncello

Paula made a promise to herself that if she and her children escaped alive she would commit the rest of her life to helping women in similar situations. True to her word, she founded AODVC the moment she knew her children were safe from the harmful hands of their father. For the past sixteen years, AODVC has been helping Americans abroad escape domestic violence.

AODVC offers services to the estimated 7.6 million Americans living overseas and the 70 million Americans traveling overseas annually, including university students studying abroad. Paula shared success stories from a few of the over 500 Americans rescued by AODVC last year. She also shared stories of those where were not lucky enough to escape, or were pursued after return to their home country.

In closing, Paula shared the somber fact that more women are murdered every year by their husbands than US soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and terror attacks in the US combined. She emphasized that the most important tool in combating domestic violence is to stop victim blaming.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer session and a light reception with snacks and refreshments.