Since its founding in 2005, CSFES has been contacted by students who have been abused. Each and every year. Only a tiny amount of exchange students who are abused contact us. We know there are many more who need help. At least that is what this study from 1999 shows. I have found no other research regarding abuse against international exchange students.
Anyone can be abused. There is no way to tell who is an abuser by the way they outwardly look or act. Abusers look just like you and me.
Physical abuse includes pinching, pushing, grabbing, shaking, smacking, kicking, and punching. In 2016 we had a case where the exchange student was beaten so bad he had to go to the Emergency. He was surprised by his host-mother and host-brother, taken out back and beaten. Due to surprise and shock, the student had not been able to defend himself. The host-brother’s fists (nothing else) were marked by the beating. Unfortunately, the exchange organization representative deleted the pictures the exchange student had taken with his phone showing what he looked like. In spite of written documentation of the damage to him, the exchange student was blamed and returned to his parents.
Report physical abuse and tell your parents. ALWAYS tell your parents, take pictures and send them as soon as possible.
In 2017 Miami Dade Herald reported on the case of the sexual abuse of at least 12 girls. The predator married two of his victims and had started the process of manipulating the another. The exchange organization, CCI Greenheart, that had placed 11 of the girls, apparently did a background check on the predator but had not found his record of sexual assault from 1985. This predator is far from the only exchange student case that has come to the attention of media.
In most cases, sexual abuse does not go this far. It all depends on how good the abuser is at what they do. Unfortunately, it also depends on the exchange organization taking the students seriously. In the above case, CCI did not. When that happens, many students give up.
As soon as you hear people tell you that you should keep whatever happens to yourself, contact your parents. ALWAYS keep your parents up to date about what happens to you and what your days consist of. I have worked with some of the students and families who are sexually abused. Sometimes the exchange organization works with the student. Other times, we have to fight to get the student to safety. Most of the time chance plays a part in whether or not CSFES, or other similar organizations, are asked for help.
This is the kind of abuse we see most often. Emotional abuse can happen on its own or together with other kinds of abuse. If you are sexually or physically abused, you will, most likely, be emotionally abused. Realizing what is happening can be difficult. Manipulators know how to gradually trap you. Some of the situation can be:
Day by day your situation worsens. Every day you are blamed for something or told that you are not good enough. Nothing you say or do makes things better. You feel the old you disappearing into a miserable person.
Blaming you for what they do. The abuser might say something like “If only you were better behaved, this would not have happened.”
You might be treated as a servant rather than a family member.
You might be kept from having contact with new friends, your family or friends at home or other adults in the area. We often hear exchange students tell us that their coordinator asks them to keep the situation to themselves.
Humiliation seems to be popular. One student told us about her host mother who would say embarrassing and untrue things about her to her friends. That kept her friends away. Others have told us about host-parents or coordinators who spread rumours.
Threats of self-harm happens. One student spoke of a host-mother who depended so much upon their talks that she said she would die if the student was not there. The student stayed longer than was good for them, but fortunately they were able to move.
Telling you that you are ungrateful for your “lovely host-parents who were kind enough to welcome you into their home”. Especially host-parents who are friends with the coordinator can cause trouble. In most cases, the exchange students gets blamed for everything that happens.
Threats of being returned to your home. Another favourite. Particularly exchange organizations use this threat. They might even demand that you sign a document where you are blamed for the situation.
When the exchange student is the abuser
This does happen. Not very often, but when it does, the abuse can be any of the above. Again, tell the exchange organization right away.