Staying Safe While Studying Abroad
Congratulations! Studying abroad is an unforgettable and life changing experience. We want you to be fully prepared before submersing yourself into a new environment and culture. While sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the victim, it is not a time to throw caution to the wind. Consider the following scenarios to better understand the tactics a perpetrator may use to lure American study abroad students:
You are studying abroad in Lyon, France… One afternoon, a classmate that you have chatted with several times asks if you want to study together. You suggest the library, but they suggest your dorm room. You lightly protest, but they say it will be nicer in your dorm room because you can play music. You decide that should be okay because your roommate will probably be in the room. Once you arrive, you become uneasy because your roommate actually isn’t in the room. You don’t want to seem rude so you decide not to change the plan and hope it will be okay. Once inside, the classmate sexually assaults you.
You are in Australia for a semester. Four of you decide to go to the beach… At the beach you meet students from another university. One of the students is a handsome young man in another program. He joins your group. At the end of the day he asks if he can walk you back to your room. He seems nice enough. You are walking down an isolated path when he suddenly throws you into some bushes and sexually assaults you.
You are studying abroad in Chile. You and two of your friends go out for dinner and dancing… You meet several young Argentinians on the dance floor and they join you for a drink. They suggest you all go someplace quieter as the dance club is too noisy. The eight of you find a nice, cozy restaurant and chat until early morning. Your two friends want to go back home but you want to stay. You are having fun. A few of the Argentinians walk your friends home, and another two stay with you. When you get up to go to the ladies room, the two men follow you and sexually assault you in the bathroom.
What is common in each of these scenarios?
- The perpetrator was skillful at getting you to let your guard down, or the situation became comfortable and you let your guard down
- The perpetrator separated you, or waited until you were separated from your traveling companions
- The perpetrator may have built trust with you.
Some Important Things To Consider:
- Remember- it’s not your fault.
- Are you in a safe place? Call or find a reliable friend or classmate to come and get you.
- Do you need medical attention? Are there SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) available?
- Is it safe to report the sexual assault in the country you are studying in? Every country has different laws and Americans abroad must abide by the laws of the country.
- Do you want to report the sexual assault to the U.S. Embassy, your university or program, and/or local police?
Important First Steps:
- If you are in a safe place, do you have a trustworthy classmate to help you? If you are not safe, call a dependable person for help.
- Do self-collection of evidence. Put all of the clothes you were wearing, bed sheets, and so on in a paper bag.
- If there is semen present, collect what you can in a glass or cup and put it in the paper bag.
- If you have any injuries, take pictures immediately.
There are so many other things to consider, contact our crisis center to speak with a SASHAA advocate from a secure line at work or other reliable phone. Advocates are available 24/7. They can help you through the ordeal, honoring your decisions. All correspondence is confidential.