Students should be aware of the realities of sexual misconduct, both at home and abroad. This guide is intended to provide you with a wide range of information and resources should you or someone you know experience sexual misconduct during your abroad experience.
What is Sexual Misconduct?
Sexual misconduct, defined as all forms of unwanted sexual contact, can happen to or be perpetrated by anyone of any gender identity around the world.
Sexual misconduct may include, but is not limited to:
- Sexual Harassment
- Non-consensual sexual contact
- Non-consensual sexual intercourse
- Non-consensual sexual exploitation
For more information regarding specific behaviors that constitute sexual misconduct, please visit studentconduct.appstate.edu
Prior to sexual contact, it is the responsibility of everyone involved to request and receive consent, defined as clear, knowing, voluntary permission, through words or actions, for another individual to do something that affects the individual giving consent. Consent is based on choice and must be informed, freely and actively given, and mutually understandable, indicating a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon activity. Consent is a vital part of creating and maintaining healthy relationships. Whether in the context of a one-time sexual encounter, friends with benefits, or committed relationships, asking for and giving consent is the responsibility of those engaged in the sexual activity.
Understanding Social Norms while Abroad
Students can take some steps ahead of departure and once in country to aid them in having a safe and rewarding experience. Social norms towards alcohol consumption, gender, and personal space may differ by country. Students can empower themselves by studying the cultural norms of their host countries. Things to consider when preparing to study abroad are:
- What is the drinking culture of my host country and how does the alcohol content differ from what I am used to?
- What are the gender and dating norms in my host country?
- Are there cultral norms regarding dress and eye contact?
- Is street harassment common in my host country?
- What are the laws regarding sexual misconduct in my host country? In other words, if I report sexual misconduct to local law enforcement or university faculty or staff, what are their legal obligations?
Some places to start with obtaining information about your host country are:
- Appalachian State Education Abroad Office: Advisors in the Education Abroad Office can have a discussion with students about any concerns they might have, can lead them to appropriate additional resources to consult, as well as connect them with returned study abroad students.
- Students Abroad: The State Department compiles health and safety information for all countries and when known highlights any issues regarding Sexual Assault or Harassment.
- OSAC: The US Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security compiles country-specific crime and safety reports, which may alert travelers to any personal identity concerns.
- SASHAA: Sexual Assault Support & Help for Americans Abroad can provide “know before you go” information to students as well as providing support to students in country.
- SAFETI: Various resources and articles, a number of which are adapted from the Peace Corps.
Risk Reduction Techniques
The majority of actions involving sexual misconduct are perpetrated by someone that the victim knows, such as an acquaintance or friend, which also holds true when students are abroad. We know that the number one way to prevent sexual misconduct is to not perpetrate the behavior. Unfortunately, we know the prevalence of sexual misconduct is vast. Here are a few risk reduction techniques you can utilize:
- Use the buddy(ies) system when going out for the evening, and always travel with a friend.
- Always let a friend you trust know where you are going. If you know the timeline of when you plan to leave/return, include this information.
- Look for warning signs, such as controlling behavior, when speaking to people. If someone’s behavior is making you uncomfortable, try to find a way to tell a friend. If someone appears to be making your friend uncomfortable, be an active bystander and safely intervene.
- Listen to and respect your partner(s). If they appear to be uncomfortable and/or are not providing clear consent prior to and during sexual activity, engage in mutual communication and respect each other’s feelings.
- Trust your gut. If a situation feels uncomfortable, and if you have the ability, try to escape the situation.
Steps to Take After Sexual Misconduct
In the event of sexual misconduct, students should get themselves to a safe location and consider talking to a friend and/or the local program staff/faculty leader. Reporting the incident to law or university officials is the students’ decision as it is an intensely personal process. If a student does decide to report the incident to the police they may want to consult with local program staff, Appalachian State University resources, the US Consulate, or an organization like SASHAA beforehand for an understanding of the legal system of that country.
If a student decides not to report the incident to the police or the university, they may still want to receive a medical exam, as injuries may not be obvious at first. In addition, receiving a forensic exam can be a way of collecting evidence, should you want to pursue legal action. Some medications, such as the morning after pill for pregnancy and antibiotics for STDs, are most effective when administered as soon as possible. It is important to be aware that some countries may require the physician to report the incident to the police.
Lastly, if the perpetrator of the sexual misconduct is a student, whether of Appalachian State, or your visiting institution, you may file report with the school. For assistance in navigating this process, we encourage you to utilize the Interpersonal Violence Support and Prevention Coordinator, or the Title IX Coordinator at Appalachian State University.
Even while studying abroad, Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity, may apply to any incident in which students report sexual misconduct to a “responsible employee,” or any employee who could reasonably be expected to have the authority or duty to report or take action to redress sexual violence. Under Title IX, many Appalachian State University staff members – including those in the Office of International Education Development – and all study abroad faculty leaders are considered “responsible employees” and have a legal obligation to report sexual violence to the Title IX Coordinator
We encourage students to make note of the support resources available to them, including Appalachian State resources, local program contact numbers, additional in-country resources such as police and emergency services, and to have them readily accessible while abroad so that they can use them in an emergency. Listed below are some resources to make note of in addition to local in-country resources that students will receive prior to departure or upon the start of their program.
Appalachian State University Resources (Confidential)
Appalachian State Counseling & Psychological Services
Emergency Services: 828-262-3180
Appalachian State University Resources (Non-Confidential)
Interpersonal Violence (Office of the Dean of Students)
Title IX Coordinator
Appalachian State University Police (Available 24/7, including holidays)
Emergency: (828) 262-8000
Non-Emergency: (828) 262-2150
Appalachian State University Office of International Education and Development
During Office Hours: (828) 262-2046
24 Hour Number: (828) 262-8000
National and International Resources
- Sexual Assault Support & Help for Americans Abroad program
- The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
- US Embassy/Consulate American Citizen Services
Grayson Bodenheimer, one of the authors of this project, would like to thank the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship for their generosity and sponsorship. This support helped bring this project to its fruition. For more information on the Gilman Scholarship, please visit https://www.iie.org/gilman/.