A Visit from Saudi Arabia

In August, a group of nine visitors from Saudi Arabia arrived in Pensacola as part of the U.S. State Department International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project titled Combating Domestic Violence Against Woman and Children. The professional objects for this project nationally were to “examine various social service agencies involved in the prevention, treatment, and assistance to victims of domestic abuse/violence; to review treatment programs from intake to reintegration into the community, demonstrate public/private partnerships and cooperative efforts that improve community welfare and prevent domestic abuse; and to illustrate various types of public advocacy campaign strategies that use both traditional and social media.”

The project began with a visit to FAVORHouse of Northwest Florida where the group met Director of Residential Programs Marsha Travis and Director of Programming Fred Sulzbach. FAVORHouse provides services and shelter for victims of domestic violence, counsels both the victim and the abuser, and runs court‑ordered education programs including “Parenting for the Abusive Parent.” The purpose of the visit was to examine programs for the prevention, treatment, and assistance to victims of domestic violence as well as counseling for abusers.

The group also had a discussion and crime lab tour at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Pensacola Regional Operations Center with Chief of Forensic Services Mary Jean Havener. The FDLE crime lab provides examination of evidence to aid in the investigation, prosecution and/or exclusion of criminal offenses. The Pensacola Crime Lab is one of FDLE’s six internationally accredited laboratories. Here the group addressed questions on the investigation of sex crimes.

A discussion at Gulf Coast Kids’ House with Executive Director Stacey Kostevicki, Team Coordinator Kirsten Bucey, Supervisor Jennifer Krumbein, Prosecutor Anne Patterson, and Supervisor Jessica Mayo focused on their unique NGO model providing a community‑based approach to advocacy, legal help, and social services for abused children while a community coffee discussion with community members Laura Johnson, Tara Jones, Patricia McGraw, and Lorina Schrauger provided the Saudis with the time to talk informally with Americans not involved professionally in combating domestic violence and abuse. Time at Pensacola City Hall with Councilwoman Sherri Myers provided a welcome orientation while a meeting and volunteer activity with Outreach Manager Annie Gray at Manna Food Pantries paired international visitors with local high school students, allowing the group to experience an important component of American culture.

The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council thanks everyone who contributed to this project, and we extend a special thank you to member Susan Senkarik who facilitated it.

At the community coffee discussion