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Health and Safety Directorate

DAPP - Know Your Legal Rights

World Bank Group Policies / Consequences of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is a criminal offense in the United States and in many countries where Bank Group staff reside. World Bank Group employees, either U.S citizens or G4 visa holders, do not enjoy diplomatic immunity and must comply with U.S. laws including family law.

Since domestic abuse involves illegal behavior, the World Bank Group does not tolerate this form of misconduct from its employees and may take disciplinary action in accordance with the Principles of Staff Employment and Staff Rule  2.01, Confidentiality of Personnel Information; and Staff Rule 3.06, Family Obligations - Spouse and (or) Child Support Obligations and Divorce.

The World Bank Group established procedures to minimize the impact of any attempts by an employee to exploit institutional immunities or privileges (which are related to World Bank Group business and do not cover illegal behavior) in private disputes.

All staff benefit from privileges and immunities for their official acts. Some staff, such as Country Directors or Country Managers, also may have diplomatic immunity based on Establishment Agreements or national legislation in the country office duty stations, which protects them for even non-official acts. However, diplomatic immunity is not a carte blanche and can be waived by the organization. Notwithstanding the diplomatic immunity or immunity for official acts, all staff are bound by the standards of conduct imposed by Principle 3.3 of the Principles of Staff Employment, as well as the Staff Rules.

These Staff Rules can be viewed here.

Domestic Relations and World Bank Group Families ("Family Law Guide") (PDF, 2014): This document is intended to help families of WBG employees who are involved in domestic relations cases and domestic abuse situations, and the advocates and lawyers who help them. Available in English, French, Spanish.

Planning Makes A Difference: Informational document for World Bank Family Network (WBFN) members. Members are requested to consult with an attorney for legal matters as laws vary from state to state and are amended frequently.


United States Law and Domestic Abuse

There are many laws in the United States that address domestic abuse, and these often vary from state to state. Please consult an attorney knowledgeable about domestic violence in order to understand your legal options. (Also see Domestic Relations and World Bank Group Families, aka "Family Law Guide", PDF, available in English, French, and Spanish.)

Criminal Laws: In the United States, it is a crime to commit a violent act against another person or to threaten to harm another person. In most states, in addition to these crimes, pushing, shoving, grabbing, forcing a person to stay somewhere against her will, destroying someone’s property, stalking someone, sexually assaulting someone, or harassing someone by telephone, is against the law. The reporting procedures (e.g., calling the police, a prosecutor, or a court commissioner) and the consequences vary by state.

Civil Protection Orders: In every state and in D.C., you may ask a judge to issue a civil order to protect you from domestic violence if you have been threatened or assaulted. This type of order tells the batterer not to abuse you. It also can tell him or her not to contact you. In most states, a protection order also can include temporary custody of the children and a visitation arrangement, temporary child support, use of the home and/or a vehicle, and other legal orders to try to end the violence. A civil protection order does not involve the criminal justice system unless the perpetrator then violates the order.

Custody: In every state and in D.C., you may ask a judge to issue a custody and visitation order if you have children in common with a batterer. This is an order determining which parent can make decisions about the children and with whom the children will live. (For information on which state has the power to issue a custody order in a case involving more than one state, please consult the Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women at 1-800-556-4053).

Immigration Relief: There are several immigration laws that address domestic violence situations. For example, if you are married to a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident and meet certain other conditions, you may be able to self-petition for immigration papers without involving your abusive spouse. Another form of relief states that if you are a crime victim and you could be helpful to law enforcement, and you meet certain other conditions, you may be eligible for a US visa. It is important to talk with a knowledgeable immigration attorney to find out if there are legal protections that could help you.

Other Resources:

  • state laws and resources related to protection orders and child custody
  • Casa De Esperanza: Learn your rights based on your immigration status.
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): immigrant women who are experiencing domestic violence, married to abusers who are U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents, may qualify to self-petition for legal status under VAWA. 


International Law and Domestic Abuse

Compendium of International and National Legal Frameworks on Domestic Violence: The Compendium on International and National Legal Frameworks on Domestic Violence (the “Compendium”) provides a survey of the key international and regional instruments as well as national legislation as they relate to domestic violence.


Safety Tips

How To Protect Your Digital Privacy: National Domestic Violence Hotline

Emails are never guaranteed to be private; they can be traced even after you have deleted them. Instead, call a hotline and ask for assistance in figuring out next steps. If you still decide to use email, doing the following things can help you protect your privacy:

  • Use the email/contact form, like the one below, for initial contact. That way you don’t risk your privacy by emailing, but only by visiting this webpage.
  • The Domestic Abuse Prevention team will provide more information on how to help protect your privacy on your computer.

Internet Browsing: If you think your activities are being monitored, they probably are. Abusive people are often controlling and want to know your every move. You don’t need to be a computer programmer or have special skills to monitor someone’s computer and Internet activities – anyone can do it and there are many ways to monitor with programs like Spyware, keystroke loggers and hacking tools.

It is not possible to delete or clear all the “footprints" of your computer or online activities. If you are being monitored, it may be dangerous to change your computer behaviors such as suddenly deleting your entire Internet history if that is not your regular habit.

If you think you may be monitored on your home computer, be careful how you use your computer since an abuser might become suspicious. You may want to keep using the monitored computer for normal activities, such as looking up the weather or recipes. Use a safer computer to research an escape plan, look for new jobs or apartments, bus tickets, or ask for help.

Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call a hotline instead. If you use email or IM, please use a safer computer and an account your abuser does not know about.

Computers can store a lot of private information about what you look at via the Internet, the emails and instant messages you send, internet-based phone and TTY calls you make, web-based purchases and banking, and many other activities. A safe computer might be a computer in a public library, at a trusted friend’s house, or an Internet café.

Domestic Abuse Tips: World Bank Family Network (WBFN): Articles on various topics including Identifying Abuse, Impact on Children, Safety Plan, Upscale Marriages, etc.