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Preventing Students Abroad Sexual Assault

Introduction

Young adults are at an increased risk to be sexually assaulted no matter what they are doing with their lives.  No one can guarantee security in the U.S. or abroad.  Sexual assault is difficult under any circumstances, but if it happens while abroad there are special considerations that need to be taken into effect and it starts with a prevention mentality.  A sexual assault victim can get support no matter where they are in the world.  We are aware that sexual assault is a very under reported violent crime.  I want to do my part to make sure students know their options and know they matter in regards to being sexually assaulted abroad.  Please join me on this anti-sexual assault movement.  We must do more with our hearts and heads/minds.

It is important for you to know what to do if you have been sexually assaulted or if you’re not sure that what happened to you was a sexual assault.

This is a human rights and civil rights issue.

If you believe sexual assault can never happen to you you are at an increased risk of sexual assault.

When traveling abroad there is a lot of preparation work to do.  You are probably very excited about the opportunity to explore a new country, culture, and perspective.  Travel does involve potential vulnerability and danger.  It is important that you learn about ways sexual assault may be prevented and to be prepared in case the inconceivable happens, you are sexually assaulted.  If you are sexually assaulted abroad there may be additional obstacles including cultural, legal, and societal.  Awareness and empowerment is important.  The risk of sexual assault should not deter any student from traveling abroad.

Sexual assault is an issue of safety.  Your safety is vital to having a positive, successful travel experience.  We all want you to be safe and to make sure security best practices are in place.

I would encourage you to consider abstaining from sex while abroad.  If you do decide to engage in sex, be sure to use a condom and be a responsible sexual partner.  There are places in the world where there is a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and hepatitis.

Dear General Population

It is important that we believe people who confide in us or come forward as a sexual violence victim/survivor and support them.  Help them find professional support.  Never blame them.

It is important that we listen to victim/survivors and decrease barriers for the well being of everyone’s future.

Anyone may be the victim of sexual assault.  Sexual violence affects people of every age, sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, sexuality, ability, relationship status, and class/socio-economic status.  Sexual assault can happen any time and any place.  It is prevalent globally and no one is immune.  While females are more susceptible to these kinds of incidents, male students should also exercise awareness.

Most men are not offenders, not only men offend, and people who sexually assault and abuse come from a very wide array of backgrounds.

We all have the same needs.  Just revisit Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Every human being is unique and so is every act of sexual violence.

Definitions and the Basics

For the purposes of SASARI abroad can be defined as…

adverb:

  1. in or to a foreign country or countries
  2. in or to another continent, as in overseas
  3. away from one’s home

noun:

  1. foreign countries considered collectively

Sexual violence is about hurting, overpowering, or otherwise humiliating another.  Most sexual assaults are planned ahead of time.

Sexual assault: non consensual contact (sexual, physical, verbal, or visual act)

Rape: non consensual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth by a penis or other object

Sexual assault occurs when a person does not or cannot consent to any kind of sexual activity.

The definitions and laws in regards to sexual violence varies depending on where you are located at the time.

Rape is not sex.  Sexual assault uses sex as a weapon to dominate, humiliate, and punish victims.  Rape is not a sexually motivated act.  Sexual violence is not just an individual or relationship problem, but stems from institutional sexism, racism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression.  Oppression is a root cause of sexual violence.

When you see oppression speak out and act with integrity.  Create change safely.  If you are privileged, promote justice.  Oppression is pervasive and hurts us all.

Sexual assault is always a crime/issue of power and control, not sexual attraction.  Sexual arousal does not need to be followed by sexual intercourse.  Although “sexual” in nature and manner, sexual violence is an act/assertion of hostility, power, aggression, domination and control.  Perpetrators use violence to maintain power and control.  They gain control or overpower another.  Most sexual violence occurs within the cultural context of the devaluation of women.

Trauma-informed leadership is a way of life: A set of beliefs and practices you bring to every dimension of who you are and what you do to make a positive difference in the lives of those suffering from trauma.  -Sarah Super, Whole Being Solutions

Feminism: the social, economic, and political equality of ALL genders

Morals: a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do

Values: a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life

Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.

Consent

Sexual violence exists when consent is not gained.  I have taken the time to prepare a very thorough document detailing just what consent is and is not with additional resources.  Please read the following document so you may better identify consensual activities: Consent document (will open as PDF)

Consent feels so good!

The Victim

The truth is, you can be doing everything “right” and still be sexually assaulted.

Sometimes bad things happen for no reason.

Anyone can be a victim/survivor of sexual violence; anyone can be an assailant.

It is never okay for someone to be sexual with you without your express permission/consent.  You have the right to say no.  It can still be a sexual assault even if you didn’t say no.

No one deserves to be sexually assaulted/victimized.  You did not ask for it or want/choose it.  You did not cause it.  It is not your fault.

All victim/survivors deserve help and support.  It is normal for victims to feel alone, isolated, to blame.  Like no one else has had this experience.  Do not stay silent!  Take control of what happened to you.  Help is out there, seek it!  It takes strength, courage, and trust to talk about surviving sexual violence.  Create the good in the world.

I created SASARI because I felt that student travelers were an underserved population from personal experience.  Typically when you read about underserved populations the following are listed: people of color, people with disabilities, foreign language speakers, the elderly, and the LGBT community.  Other victims are also represented like male victims.

Male victims of sexual assault:

  • are less likely to report for fear of ridicule or disbelief
  • may prefer to speak to or be examined by male OR older female

The vast majority of boys who are sexually abused will never sexually abuse or assault anyone else.

Asking for help is a courageous act.  Everyone deserves support to heal from this trauma.

The Perpetrator

You may know the person sexually assaulting you or you may not know them at all.  You can be assaulted by anybody.

Progressive invasions start with a touch.  You may feel wary, but talk yourself into thinking you are overreacting.  They are thinking – How much will they tolerate, how long can I get away with this before they call me out?

Be cautious of people who ignore your personal space, do not listen to you, make you feel guilty if you resist their advances or appear drunk.

Be wary of overly friendly and persistent individuals.

Predators are manipulative.  The book Gift of Fear elaborates on how so.

If you are too drunk to understand a person trying to say “No” or you are too drunk to listen and respect a person trying to say “No” it is considered sexual assault.  Even if you think you would never force sex on a person, you might lose control if you have been drinking.

Do not misread/misjudge/inaccurately perceive friendliness as an interest in sex.  Read sexual cues and learn feedback.  Ask about sexual interest.

People who are privileged feel entitled.

You are never entitled to the bodies of others.  Sexual aggression should never be established.

When you sexually assault a person you take something from them, something that cannot be given back.  They are changed for life.

The shame and guilt of sexual violence belong to the perpetrator.  Sexual assault is always the responsibility of the perpetrator and never the responsibility of the victim/survivor.

The Sexual Misconduct Policy/Student Conduct Code applies to you regardless of if you are on your home campus or studying abroad.  And you are punishable under law.  Some country’s penalties are harsher than the United States’.

Do the right thing.

Don’t rape!

Your School

You may file a report with the university.  If you are on a study abroad program, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy/Student Conduct Code applies to all actions committed abroad.  Your school’s resources are available to you.  Know your options.  As a study abroad student you should already have the proper contacts for this.

Bullying

I, Callie, am not the biggest fan of the word bullying.  I feel as though the word bullying incites more of just that: bullying.  What I can tell you is that this is a matter of respect.  When somebody is being bullied there is a blatant lack of respect.

The first time I positively remember being sexually assaulted was while in Mexico for Spanish class.  One male individual was sexually assaulting me while several of my roommates cheered him on.  I was being sexually assaulted and bullied.

My worst sexual assault was while studying abroad.  Person A should never tell Person B that they think Person B needs to/is due to have sex and throw them into a dangerous situation.  If you are receiving unwanted sexual contact do not off load the person onto an unsuspecting “friend” and say they would be interested.  I make this statement because that is exactly how I ended up being raped.  This is bullying at its absolute worst.  Remember: having sex is a very personal, serious, and intimate decision.  Worry about your own sexual activity.  Help each other, don’t hurt each other.

When being trained to become a sexual assault advocate I learnt early on that all violence is interconnected.  I do believe I have laid out prime examples of this for you above.  It is important to respect all of your peers and treat all with equality.  Use common sense and expect the same from those you trust.  Does your institution have strong anti-bullying policies that are enforced?

It is important that you stand up to bullying and defend yourself, but do it in a safe manner.

You cannot be neutral to bullying and that is why Bystander Intervention is coming next.

Bullying can include, but is not limited to: cyberbullying, teasing, hazing,

October is National Bullying Prevention Month: pacer.org/bullying/nbpm

Prevention, Bystander Intervention, Upstander

Primary prevention is the best way to create safer communities.  It is activity which takes place before the harm has occurred in order to stop sexual violence before it starts/begins.  Creating consistent policies and practices that focus on victim safety and offender accountability is a good example.  Awareness building and education is necessary to get these changed.

Preventing sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility.  Sexual violence is everybody’s problem.  Sexual violence impacts not only the victim, but our communities as well.

If they don’t consent – or can’t consent – it’s a crime.  Bystander intervention is vital.  If you identify troubling behaviors happening, help them, don’t blame them, speak up.  Change the circumstances.  Be an active bystander.  Have the courage to speak out against rape culture.  Active bystanders can disrupt dangerous behavior.  Intervene if you think someone is in a risky or harmful situation.  Intervene if someone is at risk of being sexually assaulted.  If a situation doesn’t seem right, step in.  It is easier to act with someone else.  Everyone has a role in prevention.  If 1 in 5 women in college are sexually assaulted that means there are many people there to help them.  We need to actively teach and encourage our male population to express healthy masculinity.  We must teach men not to rape rather than teach women to avoid rape.

You can search for prevention programs here:

An upstander is someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right.  They step in and stop the problem.  They speak up/out.  Upstanders create positive change in our world, are socially responsible.

Steps You Can Take to Prevent Sexual Assault rainn.org/articles/steps-you-can-take-prevent-sexual-assault

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Bystander Intervention Programs: Do They Curb Campus Sexual Assault?

http://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-09-07/bystander-intervention-programs-do-they-curb-campus-sexual-assault

U.S. Department of State

Informative websites:

https://travel.state.gov/content/studentsabroad/en.html

Help for U.S. Citizen Victims of Crime Overseas from U.S Department of State:

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/emergencies/victims.html

While there enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency while you are abroad.  It is free.

Sexual Assault Safety Profile

SASARI Sexual Assault Safety Profile (will open as a Word document)

Know how to connect with both formal and informal sources of support who can help you in the event you are sexually assaulted and keep their contact information handy so that you can access it readily.  Keep an open mind when preparing this document.

Early on in the SASARI founder’s vision for her organization she brainstormed the need for a sexual assault safety profile for each student.  Fill it out as best you can and use your study abroad program as a resource.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when completing your Sexual Assault Safety Profile:

  • Which emergency numbers should be programmed into the cell phone?
    • 911 isn’t the emergency number everywhere.  Additionally, in some places you aren’t advised to tell law enforcement about being sexually assaulted.
    • Read more on cell phones here: *Cell Phones
  • If the student needs to know where something is located, make sure there are detailed directions.  I.e. car, bus, light rail, foot, etc.
  • If you are traveling to your host school or are traveling back home and are sexually assaulted, who can you contact for help?
  • If a student is alone and suspect they’ve been given a date rape drug or “roofie” what steps should they take?

As a student traveling abroad you should have two emergency contacts in place.  Please talk to them about the possibility of sexual assault and yourself.  Say something along the lines of “I know there is a possibility that I could be sexually assaulted no matter where I am.  I am doing everything I can to prevent this from happening, but I wanted to bring this subject up with you because if I were ever sexually assaulted I would want to be able to come to you.”  You can then direct them to the resources later on in the page, *Helping a Loved One.  Including your parents may be wise.  It is important to know your sources of support in case the inconceivable happens.

General Safety Tips/Common Safety Precautions/Risk Reduction

Risk reduction is not prevention work and has its downsides.

  1. It shifts focus from the perpetrator to the survivor.
  2. It aids in the victim blaming mentality.  Did the victim follow the recommendations?
  3. It is not an accurate picture of sexual assault.  For example, many people are assaulted by people they trust and/or when no alcohol is involved.
  4. It contributes to creating a “typical predator”.

I still think it is important to include.  You may need to change your behavior to stay safe.

  • Connect with past participants of your study abroad program.  Ask them about what to expect and specifically ask for their advice about the social culture and personal body safety.
  • Learn about local customs, culture, dress, expected behavior, laws, and attitudes about drugs and alcohol, etc.
  • Avoid standing out.  You want to blend in and not look like a tourist.
  • Do not take a lot of money and jewelry with you.
  • Have a photocopy of your passport (leave the original at home or in a hotel safe).
  • Make sure someone – like a roommate, friend, or parent – knows where you are going and when you plan to arrive at your destination at all times, like when you are traveling across campus.  Inform them if plans change.
  • Don’t hesitate to report suspicious persons or activities, or if you feel unsafe.
  • Be alert and aware of your surroundings.  If you’re alone only use headphones in one ear.  Do not be distracted on your phone.  Be careful about posting your location.  Listen to what is being said around you and know what suspicious activity looks like.  Stay in control of every situation.  Look and act confident.  Know where you are going or at least act like it.  Do not look lost or confused.
  • Stay in pairs or groups with friends.  There is strength and safety in numbers, so never travel alone.  You should always be accompanied by someone you trust and agree to watch out for each other.  Designate someone who will keep an eye on the others.  Preplan how you will get home.  Make sure everyone gets home safely.  Don’t leave anyone behind, insist on staying together.
  • Keep interactions with strangers to a minimum.  Never go, or allow a friend to go, anywhere with someone you just met, a stranger.  Give people time to earn your trust before relying on them.  Be wary of new ‘friends’, even if they are fellow travelers.  Don’t tell strangers where you are staying or give out too many details about your travel plans.  Never leave your key where someone can note your room number.  Do not invite strangers into your living quarters.  Keep your door(s) and windows locked when you’re asleep and when you leave the room.  Do not open a residence door if uncomfortable or alone.  If the door has a spy-hole or chain, use these before opening the door to unexpected visitors.  Always keep your blinds closed or curtains drawn when changing clothes.
  • Stay in well lit areas that are well-traveled.  Stay out of potentially dangerous areas and areas you don’t know well.
  • Avoid public demonstrations or other civil disturbances and large groups of men.
  • Use safe forms of transportation.  Public transportation can increase risks.  Never hitchhike or accept car rides from strangers.  Ask your accommodation to recommend a taxi firm.  Carry enough cash to get home.  When using a taxi write down the name of the company, license plate number, and driver’s name.  Prior to going out, schedule a taxi or car service to meet you at a prearranged time and location.
  • Ignore unwanted/unwelcomed attention.
  • If you ever feel uncomfortable or in danger, don’t be afraid to draw attention to yourself by shouting and making a fuss.
  • Do not purchase or use drugs.  Drugs are illegal in every country and laws are strictly enforced.
  • Alcohol and drug facilitated sexual assault and how to protect yourself.  Have a nondrinking friend with you to make sure nothing happens.  If you choose to consume alcohol, be responsible about it.  Drinking makes you a target for crime.  Do not overindulge or drink beyond your limits.  Limit the number of drinks you consume.  If somebody is buying you shot after shot they could have poor intentions.  Try to get drinks that are sealed from the distributor and open the container yourself.  It is easy to keep the opening covered with a thumb and there is more assurance that something wasn’t put in it before you get it.  If it is a bottle keep the cap so it can go back on the bottle between drinks.  Always watch your drink as it’s being made or poured.  Do not accept drinks from anyone but the bartender or wait staff.  Do not accept drinks from other people, exchange/share beverages with other people, or drink from shared containers like punch bowls or other common, open containers with other people especially strangers.  They may already have drugs in them.  Keep your drink with you at all times, even when you go to the bathroom.  If a beverage looks, smells, or tastes strange/different, or, if it has been moved or topped off, do not drink it; get another one.  If you start to feel strange, sick/nauseated or drunk/overly intoxicated (effects are stronger than usual) after taking a drink or a couple of drinks find a friend or help immediately so they can take you to a safe place.  Date rape drugs may cause disorientation/confusion, speech and balance impairment and excessive sedation(weakness) in some.  If you must tell someone behind the bar.  Go somewhere safe and call for help.  Do not let strangers help and do not attempt to go home alone.  If someone in your group collapses or becomes unconscious immediately call an ambulance, advise the facility’s management, and do not leave the individual alone.  If you suspect you are the victim of spiking and you are sent to a hospital, tell the medical staff so they can run the proper tests.  If you are still at the club, ask management to hold on to the drink (as possible evidence).  Date rape drugs can be sold as odorless, colorless and tasteless, are prevalent, and are used in unscrupulous ways: food, soft drinks, water, and gum can be spiked in addition to alcoholic beverages.  If you suspect you have been the victim of a drug facilitated sexual assault it is crucial that your first urine/bladder void is collected.  Either wait to urinate at the ER or collect the first bladder void in a jar and bring it with you.  This urine sample may be the only thing which contains the evidence to show that you have been drugged.  Even cigarettes, soaked in various substances, have been used in drug facilitated sexual assaults.  When lit, the inserted substance evaporates; during inhalation, it is absorbed almost immediately into the lungs and then to the brain.  Only smoke cigarettes from someone you trust.  If a date rape drug is used you may wake up and not know where you are because they can make you virtually unconscious and defenseless.  Alcohol may affect you differently.  The alcohol content in their beverages may be stronger than what you are use to and the climate you are in may cause the alcohol to affect you differently from what you are use to.  Alcohol is the drug most commonly used to help commit sexual assault as if affects your judgement and behavior.  Spend some time learning about date rape drugs.  It can be hard to tell if your drink has been spiked and it happens quickly without your knowing.  I had no idea one of the side effects is vomiting.  Remember, it is never your fault if you have been sexually assaulted.
  • Carry emergency funds.
  • Have emergency contact information readily available.
    • Keep a notebook and writing utensil on hand for emergency purposes.  It is important to document things in the event of an emergency.  If you experience or witness an act of sexual violence make a log of the incident including date, time, witnesses, details, etc.  Even if you do not report right away you still want to know the exact date the assault happened.
  • Immerse yourself in the culture and experience of being abroad, but be clear about your boundaries. It can be easy to get caught up in new experiences and adventures but you never want to do something that would be against your ethics.
    • Plan your daily itinerary – know where you’re going, what you’re doing and how to get back.  When you travel make sure you share your itineraries (departure, destination, and expected return date) and lodging information with both schools, family, and friends.  Do research on customs for each travel destination, see *Country Specific Details section.  Maintain regular contact with friends and family in general during your time abroad.
  • One of the most important things you can do is listen to yourself.  Trust yourself and your instincts, then trust others.  Please take some time to read Of ultimate importance: instincts, gut feelings, intuition (will open as a PDF)

If you are confused by an interaction use your communication skills.  Communication is key.  Make your body language match your words.

Additional Resource

studyabroad.com/blogs/study-abroad-safety-tips-female-students

Miscellaneous Items

Acknowledge the word vulnerability and how it may be associated with sexual violence.  Perpetrators often choose victims whom they perceive as vulnerable.  If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault before, you are at a higher risk to be a victim again.  Get help from a sexual assault advocate or counseling professional before it happens again!

Consider group tours run through companies like Intrepid, Contiki or Trek America.  They allow you to travel in a group of like-minded individuals, with the safety of a local guide who can help in any difficult situations.  Still exercise caution.  In December 2016 there was an article online titled “India’s Police Investigating Rape Accusation by American Tourist”.

Don’t tell somebody you just met (a stranger) that it is your last night.  Men have preyed on women who are leaving the next day.

Depict healthy consent negotiations.

Rehearse scenarios where a person might be at risk of sexual assault including how you would react to certain situations.  You can do so by yourself, or with a trusted friend(s) or family member(s).  Include verbal and physical reactions.

Hypothetical Situations/Examples:

  • You are touched inappropriately.  i.e. grabbed at a bar on the dance floor
    • Step on their foot and put your elbow into their stomach.
  • You are offered a ride.

Assess risk, overcome emotional barriers in acknowledging danger, and engage in effective verbal and physical resistance/self-defense.  Never panic.

When Americans travel abroad we tend to be treated the way we are portrayed in the media.  Misperceptions are prevalent about American women and sex.  Stereotypes and assumptions do exist and need to be talked about and understood.

Keep a journal while you are abroad.  Write about your emotions and your feelings as they arise.  Find somebody safe to talk to if you feel the need.  Some travel insurance provides support for travelers feeling low or anxious.

I have not heard human trafficking mentioned in the work I’ve done thus far with students traveling abroad, but didn’t want to leave it out of my information to you because it is such an important thing to know about.  The United States federal definition of human trafficking is a situation in which an individual is compelled to work or engage in commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, or if the individual engaged in commercial sex is under 18 years of age, force, fraud or coercion need not be present.  Prostitution is an example of human trafficking.  Human trafficking is a hidden crime because victims rarely come forward to seek help.

Consider self defense and self protection options available.

  • Take a self defense or martial arts class before you go to learn how to physically defend yourself.  You may learn to be aware/mindful of your surroundings as well as deterrent and escape techniques.  It also helps to train your reflexes.
  • Carry a whistle, alarm, canned air horn, or pepper spray.
  • One personal protection website: mydamselpro.net/maryb  The only thing I add is that you be cognizant of things like airport security and the laws of the places you will be traveling when carrying and utilizing these tools.
  • If a male is in the process of sexually assault you remember how sensitive their genitals are.  Hitting them there could give you the time you need to get to safety.
  • In the face of danger/trauma a person can’t necessarily control how they react to a sexual assault.  Never beat yourself up about it.  You never know what the perpetrator is capable of or prepared to do to you.  Your body is trying to process what is happening the best way it knows how and these are defensive ways it may respond/react.
    • We all know about Fight, Flight(flee), and Freeze.  When freezing a person is assessing the situation and making a decision that isn’t impulsive.  When you know the person who is harming you it may also contribute to the freezing reaction.  We have learned that these categories don’t accurately portray sexual violence situations, so please read on.
    • Submit is the safest and gets the sexual assault over the quickest.
    • Victims withdraw or escape mentally.
    • Dissociation is when you disconnect from the situation.
    • Tonic immobility is also very common.  It is a basic defense strategy, a natural state of paralysis, a way of avoiding or deterring predators, an induced response to threatening stimuli characterized by complete loss of muscle strength.
    • Tonic immobility is also called involuntary paralysis which is temporary and keeps victims from fighting back or screaming.  During extreme paralysis victims are effectively catatonic.
    • Women who experience paralysis while being assaulted are at a higher risk of subsequent PTSD and depression.

Positive Self Talk

Using positive self talk is a great thing to practice daily no matter what your circumstances are.  Intentional thinking, mantras, affirmations, and credos fall under the category of positive self talk.  I have created an inspirational piece for students to use as an example.

I respect my whole self and expect everyone else to too.

I deserve to discover the world and experience positive growth.

Those who feel powerless often cause others the most suffering.

I trust God and believe in good things to come.

(Reminder: People who rape are known to do so because they feel powerless.)

Cell Phones

If you will be living abroad having a cell phone is a must.  It is important for safety purposes.  It is also a lifesaver in unfamiliar places… you can look up directions or public transport connections, currency exchanges, and translations.  Some universities require students to carry a cell phone on them.  Some people bring their phones from home and some buy/rent them locally.  It is handled differently depending on where you will be going and for how long.  It is generally cheaper to purchase a phone/plan/SIM card in the abroad country.  I read online that it is recommended to go prepaid.  If you are studying abroad ask the program you are participating in for their advice on acquiring a cell phone and learning how to use it in a foreign location.

It is important that you know how to dial the phone in your foreign country, especially dialing for help.  Every country can be different.

+1 is the code to dial into the United States.

Always carry your cell phone and keep it fully charged.

There is a lot of information on the internet to prepare you before you travel abroad, so do some research.

Consider adding apps for your safety such as:

www.circleof6app.com , a free app that prevents violence before it happens

Delhi Police in India have a safety app for women.

Verizon Information

Travel Smartly with Prescription Medications and More

If you have pre-existing medical problems you should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs.  Ensure that you have enough medicine in the event your return trip gets delayed.  Bring any medicines you need in your carry on.  Any medications you carry overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled.  Some U.S. prescription medications are illegal in foreign countries and may subject you to arrest.  Be sure to check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting or transiting en-route to make sure your medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics in that country.

If you are on birth control or want to be on birth control while you are there bring a full supply with you.

The morning after pill or emergency contraception like Plan B should be taken within 72 hours after intercourse.  The sooner you take it, the better it works.  It has the same hormone used in many birth control pills – just at a higher dose.  It can be purchased over the counter in the US before leaving to go abroad.

Bring latex condoms with you.

Some people travel with pregnancy tests just in case.  This “saved” me 3 weeks post rape.

The importance of community response to sexual assault

By Dani Bostick Nov 10, 2015, Taken from Huffington Post via SB Nation

How we react to sexual assault as a community can have damaging effects on victims.

If you hear about an allegation either in the media or in person, think before you react.  It took a lot of courage for the alleged victim to report the crime to law enforcement, or simply share his or her concerns with a friend.  Your reaction can contribute to a culture in which victims are silenced and do not pursue justice for crimes.  Or, you can start making your community a safer, more comfortable place for victims, one in which they do not have to worry about having their reputations maligned while their perpetrators are heralded as model citizens.

It is not up to you to decide whether a crime happened.  It is up to you, however, to contribute to an environment where alleged victims feel comfortable pursuing justice without being victimized a second time.

Bystander intervention doesn’t need to involve heroics.  Ask yourself: Do my words and actions help my community be a safe place for victims to report their crimes and deal with the aftermath of their assault?  Or, am I contributing to a culture that imprisons victims in silence and shame?

The author would also like to share a video which can be found online with her main message called “Victim, Unashamed and Unsilenced” Dani Bostick TEDxColoradoSprings

Country Specific Details

Email www.sashaa.org at knowb4ugo@866uswomen.org to get country specific information on local cultures, safety tips, dress, sexual assault laws and other travel considerations for all your travel destinations.  They can help you understand what to expect in regards to attitudes towards women.

travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country.html , Learn About Your Destination

It is important you know the norms: social environment and cultural context before you go.  You must be respectful of the country you are visiting and its citizens.  Cultural sensitivity is the doorway to a positive cultural experience, but never submit to uncomfortable behavior or compromise your ethics/relax your personal boundaries.  Don’t feel compelled to return unwanted attention or engage in conversation.  If you feel uneasy get out of the situation.  Never sacrifice sense of safety for cultural sensitivity.  Laws and attitudes vary greatly from country to country.

Learn more about social norms and prevention here: vetoviolence.cdc.gov/violence-prevention-basics-social-norms-change

A few things SASARI has learnt of:

In Spain if you accept a drink from a man or go home with them you are agreeing to sex.

In England the term fanny does not mean a purse you wear around your hips but rather a slang term for women’s genitalia.

In 2014, a Norwegian woman was jailed after reporting being raped in Dubai.  She was later charged with unlawful sex (outside of marriage) and of making a false statement.

A November 2016 article is titled “Briton who reported rape in Dubai could face jail for extramarital sex”.

Despite the 2012 Delhi gang-rape incident, in April 2013, courts in India expressed concern that women would begin to abuse the legal system by claiming rape either to incriminate anyone or to use it as a weapon for vengeance.

Additional Resources

U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Advisory Council (OSAC)

osac.gov , Review the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports prior to departure.  They will give overviews of and contact information for various law enforcement agencies and medical facilities.  They can also discuss vulnerabilities for minority travelers (such as women or those within the LGBT community).

OSAC is an invaluable resource for responding to overseas emergencies.  OSAC was created in 1985 and is a federal advisory committee responsible for promoting cooperation between private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. State Department.

OSAC is available to offer any guidance or consultations prior to departure or to help facilitate communications with the U.S. diplomatic presence responsible for the location where your students might be.  OSAC can be a valuable tool for the U.S. private sector on security-related issues in a foreign environment.

  • For travel to the Western Hemisphere: OSACWHA@state.gov
  • For travel to Africa: OSACAF@state.gov
  • For travel to Europe: OSACEUR@state.gov
  • For travel to the Middle East and North Africa: OSACNEA@state.gov
  • For travel to South and Central Asia: OSACSCA@state.gov
  • For travel to East Asia and the Pacific: OSACEAP@state.gov

OSAC cannot authorize SASARI website references to OSAC and use of OSAC information.  SASARI does not use the name of the U.S. Department of State of the OSAC in such a way as to imply any endorsement of SASARI by the State Department, OSAC, or the U.S. Government.  The Department and OSAC must avoid even the appearance that they are promoting private gain in discharging their public functions.

The World Health Organization

WHO has information on sexual violence.  Pay close attention to the related links and related documents sections along the side and bottom of the pages when using the below hyperlinks because there is more information available.  The World Health Organization hasn’t been able to communicate with me yet.  These sites weren’t easily located and do not appear to be mainstream on their site.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Study Abroad Statistics

Institute of International Education shares data through what is called Open Doors.  “a comprehensive information resource on international students and scholars studying or teaching at higher education institutions in the United States, and U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit at their home colleges or universities”

iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors

Response to and Recovery from Students Abroad Sexual Assault

If you have been sexually assaulted abroad:

  • Find a place where you feel safe.
  • Find someone knowledgeable who can help you find the support and information you need, both right now and in the future.  Examples of people you can trust include your study abroad advisor (should make sure you are accompanied during all your proceedings and that you have input on who accompanies you) or your home campuses 24 hour helpline.  Before talking, ask whether your conversation with this person will be confidential.  Confidentiality is the beginning of empowerment, for it assures the victim/survivor that s/he alone has the right to choose to disclose information about the sexual violence.  A friend or relative may also be able to support you.
    • It is important for you to get your power and control back, reclaim it, but be gentle with yourself as you are very sensitive.  Sexual assault is a traumatic event.  You may not remember everything.  Every sexual assault is unique because every human being is unique.  This includes the emotional response to sexual assault.  Everyone reacts differently.  You might feel burdened by embarrassed, afraid, hurt, confused, angry, scared, sad, shocked, fear, shame, doubt, self-blame, numb, and/or degraded – these are all normal.  Allow yourself to experience your feelings and emotions.  Give them space to happen.  Your responses are normal reactions to an abnormal experience.  Your feelings change and develop even for years throughout your journey to healing.  Feeling all alone is very common.  A person who has been sexually assaulted may not grasp just how many other survivors there are out there, their ability to properly judge reality is off kilter.  Survivors almost always eventually blame themselves and this is why it is so important to get help from professionals.  Your self esteem and spirit need to be uplifted.  Remember, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted and it is not your fault.  You are not alone.  The only person who is to blame is the perpetrator.  Know that sexual assault survivors are strong and brave.  Rebuilding feelings of safety, trust, control, and self-worth can take quite a long time, but that is okay.  You can’t change what has happened, but you do get to make your own decisions about what is best for your recovery.
  • To protect/preserve evidence do not
    • shower or bathe
    • brush your teeth
    • change clothes
    • eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, or take medications
    • wipe after urinating
    • throw anything away, try to clean up, or move things around the room or area where the incident occurred
    • Do save physical evidence like sheets, blankets, or anything else that may have evidence as well.
    • Do place in a paper bag (plastic bags cause condensation, which interferes with analysis.)
  • Contacting a sexual assault advocate/rape crisis center personnel is vital.  They provide free and confidential services.  They facilitate recovery, are there to support and assist you.  It is their job to make a strong positive impact and show that they can be a support system.  They want you to make informed decisions.  Advocates are specifically trained to provide emotional support and assist you with communicating your feelings.  The provide referrals, connect you with information/resources, and provide guidance on navigating medical and legal support systems.  They will not judge you or make decisions for you.  They can be by your side supporting you during a sexual assault/forensic exam.  They can help you with other needed accommodations.  Discuss your concerns and questions regarding the assault.  They help you advocate for yourself so you may deal with the assault properly and help you create effective and healthy coping mechanisms.  You have a lot of choices to make about decisions affecting your life.  Make plans.
    • Reporting
      • Sexual Assault Advocates can help you determine if reporting the crime to law enforcement is best/safe to do.  It is important to document as much information as possible about your rape as quickly as possible.  If you do report the crime to law enforcement ask for a copy of the police report.
      • Sexual Assault Advocates can help you navigate your school’s grievance/disciplinary/reporting process.
      • We need more justice and peacemaking.
    • Here are the options we know of for sexual assault advocates:
    • Your home campus or host campus should be able to help you locate a sexual assault advocate
    • Sexual Assault Support and Help For Americans Abroad (SASHAA)
      • sashaa.org (866uswomen.org)
      • Provide survivors of all genders with the knowledge on the country specific laws, services, and cultural norms.  They even help you navigate the legal process.  They break things down by the following categories:
        • Advocacy and Counseling
        • Medical Services
        • Law Enforcement
        • Criminal and Civil Prosecution
      • They can be contacted 24/7 by phone (1-866-US-WOMEN/1-866-879-6636), e-mail (crisis@866uswomen.org), or live chat.
    • Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the United States of America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and advocacy group.
    • United States State Agencies:
      • www.mncasa.org/state-casa-groups
      • These websites can direct you to help throughout each specific state.  24-hour crisis phone support, individual in person counseling and therapy, and legal advocacy for survivors of sexual assault and abuse are types of services that may be provided by a specific agency.  Some even offer support groups, healing circles, and healing through the arts courses that you can utilize once you return home.
  • Contact U.S. Embassy/Consulate – www.usembassy.gov
    • You may have challenges that further complicate things including language barriers, financial and medical expenses, and the country’s own laws, culture and attitudes toward specific crimes.
    • Their mission is to ensure the safety and security to U.S. citizens who travel abroad. They are the best resource to provide support and assistance helping a sexual assault victim navigate the medical, judicial and legal systems in the country where the crime occurred.
    • They play a diplomatic role and must abide by the laws within that country.  To determine how they can help visit http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/emergencies/victims.html
  • Seek medical attention.  Even if you do not want to report the assault to law enforcement and/or are not injured physically you still need medical attention/assistance/care to protect your health.  Medical exams are  important because you get screened and treated for external and/or internal injuries, and tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections/diseases.  They can get you medications for potential sexually transmitted infections, including anti-HIV/AIDS medications.  Access to the morning after pill/emergency contraception/pregnancy prevention may also be available if you so choose.  Getting medical attention should offer you a safe and caring environment.  You can get medical attention without having to go through evidence collection.  You should be able to get these services at a local hospital.
    • If you have a sexual assault evidence exam/forensic medical exam/rape kit(if available) done right away it may give you more options later in a criminal proceeding.  Chances are your rapist has or will sexually assault(ed) someone else.  Forensic evidence wise, it is best to have the exam performed in the first 24 hours, but can be performed up to 72 hours after the assault.  A SANE(Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) or SARS (Sexual Assault Resource Service) nurse may be available to you.
    • Pay special attention to your mental health.  A small mental health problem can turn into a very big one.  Depression and anxiety are the most common mental illness.  Mental health problems do co-occur.  If you notice something that is not right don’t be afraid to tell a medical professional about it.  If you are trying to deescalate a situation with an individual be sure to use I statements and not you statements.
      • nami.org , NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.  NAMI helpline: 1-800-950-6264
      • If you struggle with thoughts of suicide please reach out.  There are people who care.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) any time for free confidential help.  Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741.  suicidepreventionlifeline.org
      • If you are outside of the US, please visit iasp.info to find resources in your area.
      • makeitok.org , It’s time to start talking about mental illness.
      • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education save.org 1-888-511-SAVE (7283)
      • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration samhsa.gov 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
      • Alcoholics Anonymous aa.org
      • Narcotics Anonymous na.org
      • projectsemicolon.org , Project ; “your story is not over”
  • Report your assault to the study abroad programs and university officials.  Know who to contact in case of conflict of interest due to perpetrator involvement.  The study abroad programs need to know so they can take appropriate measures to reduce the risk of something happening to other participants.  They can help you get the support you need and deserve.  What are the reporting options if you are on campus?  Are there interim measures that can be taken like a no contact order, class schedule change, or change in housing?  If alleged perpetrator is another student what is the protocol?  Has the Title IX Coordinator been informed?
  • Talk to a counseling professional who can help you begin to process and understand what happened.  This person can help you cope with emotional difficulties that may arise after an assault, help you regain a sense of control and safety thereby heal.  These individuals should also be able to provide you with confidentiality.  Ask your loved ones if they have any recommendations on who to talk to.  Please don’t get discouraged if a psychologist does not meet your standards because there are others out there to try.  If you have no recommendations to go off of, try searching this website for starters: https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/?utm_source=PT_Psych_Today&utm_medium=House_Link&utm_campaign=PT_TopNavF_Therapist
    • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) may be able to help with PTSD symptoms as well.

Rape Trauma Syndrome

Rape Trauma Syndrome does exist and manifests in different ways.

For Victim/Survivors

If you have been sexually assaulted it is not your fault.  No one deserves to be sexually assaulted.  Make it your initiative to actually believe and feel it!  (Reading my rape statement which included why I blamed myself to my psychologist is what helped get me in the right direction.  You are not to blame!)  Telling your story will help.  Just make sure to start with those who are safe and qualified.

Move through your trauma, do not move on.

Be patient with yourself.

Practice deep breathing whenever you feel anxious or panicked.  It calms and centers your body.  Make deep breathing a habit throughout your life.

When you become the victim of sexual violence your body responds in ways you may not expect in an effort to protect you.  Everyone experiences crisis differently.  Take control of how you respond to acts of sexual violence.  Overcome it.  Your body is your temple.  The most important thing that belongs to you.  You need to restore it to wholeness!  You are not alone!

The crime of rape is the ultimate violation.  Rape isn’t something a person “gets over”, it is a lifelong event.  It is important that you work on healing and learn to cope with it in positive ways.  Healing and recovery is possible.  It takes courage and time to heal from rape.  It is never too late to address and there is no wrong way to heal as long as you are making healthy choices.  Claim your experience.  Don’t let it claim you!  Read on for more guidance.

“Recovering from sexual assault or abuse is a process, and that process looks different for everyone.  It may take weeks, months, or years: there’s no timetable for recovery and healing.  Here are some resources to help you navigate the process: rainn.org/recovering-sexual-violence

Discontinuation of Bad Experiences

If you aren’t happy with the service you receive from one professional do not be afraid to find a second or even third opinion.  It is important that you find professionals that are right for you.  Do not let one bad experience with a professional hamper your healing journey!  For healing purposes you can’t stay silent.  When you speak up you start to heal.  When you reach out for help you are saying your sexual assault was not right and you deserve better.  But not all people out there who are employed do their job well so don’t give up.  Your sexual assault should be the worst thing to happen and nobody should be making it even worse.

Suppressing your feelings around your rape and not working through the trauma can cause illnesses like heart disease, depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD can leave you with lingering or perhaps even debilitating symptoms.  Most common among these symptoms are nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of sexual intimacy, impaired concentration, mood fluctuations and sleep and appetite changes.

Your thoughts affect your behaviors and emotions, what appears in your reality.

Helping a Loved One

I have this available in a PDF here: Helping a Loved One

Financial Burdens

Do not let money hinder your desire to seek help.  Resources are available.

SASHAA can sometimes assist financially, may it be with medical assistance (to be seen by a medical professional), a danger to safety relocation, etc.  It depends on each unique situation and what SASHAA’s budget allows.

The embassy may be able to help: www.usembassy.gov

If you have your school’s required medical, evacuation, and security insurance it should be covered as well.

You may be covered by your homeowners or travel insurance for any belongings you may have lost at the time of the assault.  It is likely you will have to report the incident to law enforcement in the country that you are in for the insurance to be valid.  Make sure it is safe to report an assault to law enforcement before contacting them.

ithappenedtoalexa.org , provides family members or trusted friends financial assistance to be able to attend a court trial with their loved one who has been a victim of sexual assault.

Lifestyle Choices

Positive

After a sexual assault it is vital that you utilize positive coping skills and practice self care.  Bad things happen to good people.  Find a healthy outlet to express your emotions and feelings.  This can help rebuild your confidence and your sense of empowerment.  Please focus on your well being as a whole because all your boundaries have been violently invaded: mind, body, and spirit.  The resources are endless, so please take time to do some searching.  It is possible to live a healthy, full life.

Keeping a journal is something that is widely recognized as beneficial and healing.  Don’t forget to write about your future too!

One method to helping you live a positive life is to create a list of all thing things you are grateful for each morning.  As the day goes on add to the list.

Self-care does not heal trauma.  “Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation.”  Judith Herman, Trauma & Recovery

CaringBridge.org is a nonprofit that supports the love and connection of more than 500,000 people every day.  They provide personal, protected websites where people can share updates during any type of health event.  They believe that in times of need, the greatest source of hope and healing is the love of family and friends.  Through a CaringBridge website, everyone can stay informed and leave messages of support and encouragement.  It is a great tool for journaling even if you need it just for yourself.

Negative

Please be aware of common negative effects of a sexual assault and know there is help available.  www.rainn.org/get-information/effects-of-sexual-assault

Victim vs. Survivor vs. Thriver

You have your whole life to live as a rape survivor and I want you to thrive.

Read the “Victim vs. Survivor vs. Thriver” document (will open as a PDF)

Support System

Having a strong support system is important.  Your support system can include family, friends, and more.  Sexual assault survivors deserve compassion and empathy.  Connecting with other survivors of sexual assault can also be very beneficial.  Please talk openly about your feelings to your support system, it helps!

Justice

Because the United States can’t do a lot to help students abroad, justice can be hard to attain.  Every act of sexual violence is unique.  One option is restorative justice.  Here is an article that I found enlightening in regards to justice:

http://www.npr.org/2017/07/25/539334346/restorative-justice-an-alternative-to-the-process-campuses-use-for-sexual-assaul

Pregnancy

If you become pregnant due to your sexual assault know that there is support for you out there.  There is a tremendous amount of information available online and any sexual assault advocate can help too.

Students Abroad Sexual Assault Advocacy

If your life has been affected due to a student being sexually assaulted while abroad I welcome you to make contact with me (callie@sasari.org) if this is something you feel comfortable with.  I keep regular contact with elected officials about this cause and welcome other’s input.  I think if there is anybody that can help us improve all things students being sexually assaulted abroad it is the survivors themselves, so please provide me feedback on the material found throughout this website or lack thereof.  I am open to recommendations.  If you have a specific item like a risk reduction technique you would like me to give emphasis to in any way I would be willing to consider your input.  Please be gentle with yourself and utilize your support system and resources.

I have found meeting other sexual assault survivors helpful towards my healing journey and would be happy to hear from you!

Sexual assault survivors can expect confidentiality from SASARI.

Other Resources:

  • The National Center for Victims of Crime Victim Service Helpline, 1-800-FYI-CALL or 1-800-211-7996 (TTY/TDD)
  • notalone.gov , Not Alone is part of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault
  • loveisrespect.org , a dating abuse helpline for teens, 1-866-331-9474
  • 1in6.org , Resources for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
  • csfes.org , Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
  • endrapeoncampus.org , End Rape on Campus (EROC)
  • pandys.org , Pandora’s Project, Support and resources for survivors of rape and sexual abuse
  • evawintl.org , End Violence Against Women International
  • forumea.org , The Forum on Education Abroad
  • justice.gov , The United States Department of Justice
  • survjustice.org , SurvJustice, Increasing the Prospect of Justice for Survivors
  • civilsocietyhelps.org , Civil Society, can interview students to determine what legal and advocacy services are needed
  • bravemissworld.com , Miss Israel Linor Abargil’s story, take notice to Get Help and Speak Out tab
  • amnestyusa.org , Amnesty International is a global movement of people fighting injustice and promoting human rights
  • ovc.ncjrs.gov/findvictimservices , Directory of Crime Victim Services, a resource from the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC)
  • Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime
  • state.gov/m/ds , Bureau of Diplomatic Security (BDS), an agency that protects diplomats abroad
  • change.org , the world’s largest petition platform, empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see
  • StoryCorps.me , a global platform for listening, connecting, and sharing stories of the human experience.  Since the app is still in public beta, please be sure to test it first before recording your meaningful stories.
  • cruiserape.com , Cruise Ship Rape & Sexual Assault Support Center
  • internationalcruisevictims.org , Internatiobnal Cuise Victims

Missing Abroad

If the person abroad is missing visit the Natalee Holloway Resource Center (NHRC) website at www.crimemuseum.org/help-the-missing

Progress

“Said the river: Imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.” – Mary Oliver

Website Suggestions Sought

I believe our students traveling abroad deserve the best.  I created this website knowing I want people to help me improve what is available on my website.  I believe there is always room for improvement.  Please e-mail me with any ideas in regards to website material!  callie@sasari.org  The website is always evolving, so make sure to keep checking back!

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