Safety While Studying Abroad
Sexual harassment, assault, and interpersonal violence can happen anywhere. Unfortunately, study abroad programs are no exception. This page will help you create safety plans and understand the resources available to you during your journeys.
Things to Consider When Studying Abroad
Through various travel organizations, Eastern students have over fifty countries they can choose to study in. It is important to be remember that different cultures and governments have varying attitudes, societal norms and laws regarding sex, sexuality, harassment and violence. Consult with your study abroad adviser and/or accompanying professors if you have questions or concerns about these issues before your journey begins.
- Familiarize yourself with the host country’s local resources, such as police departments, hospitals, banks or ATMs, public transportation routes, and supermarkets. Save their information in your phone, on your computer, or somewhere else that you can easily access like a bulletin board in your hostel/dorm room.
- Learn about the host country’s laws and the policies in place at your study abroad institution. As an Eastern student, you are still bound by the policies contained in the Student Handbook while on your trip.
- Memorize important phrases in the host country’s language. These could be phrases like “I need help!” or “Where is the nearest clinic?” Alternatively, you could carry a translation booklet or download a translation app on your smartphone.
- Remember to bring any important items or documents with you on your travels. This could include your passport, your license, a medical insurance card, a roadside assistance card, or your student identification card, as well as any medications you need.
- Travel in groups whenever possible and stay connected. Swap phone numbers with other study abroad students in your group who you feel comfortable with. Make sure you have your study abroad professor’s contact information, and vice versa.
- If you need to split from the group, let your friends know where you are going. Give them a general sense of when you will be returning to the hostel or dorm. Additionally, if you have not heard from a friend in a while, call or text them to get an update and regroup if necessary.
- If you sense something wrong, try to safely intervene. If that does not seem like an option, contact your study abroad adviser or a professor to make them aware of the situation. Contacting emergency personnel is always an option.
Age of Consent by Location
As mentioned earlier, it is important to familiarize yourself with the laws of the country you will be traveling to. Below is a brief list of countries that Eastern students will be traveling to during the upcoming semesters, with corresponding ages of consent.
Northern Ireland: 16
South Africa: 16
15 (heterosexual sex)
17 (homosexual sex)
16 (vaginal and oral sex)
18 (anal sex)
If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted While Studying Abroad:
- Go to a safe place. Go to a friend’s room or any open offices on the study abroad campus that you feel comfortable in.
- Contact someone you can trust. A friend, a family member, your study abroad professor, or a victim advocate are good resources to call. You do not have to go through this alone. In addition to the campus SAIV-RT Members, there are 24-hour hotlines available for support. Victim Advocates from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut can be reached at 888-999-5545. International calls are subject to special phone charges and fees.
- Preserve evidence. If you think you might want to report the crime to the police, do not shower, douche, eat, brush your teeth, or wash your clothes. Physical evidence must be collected immediately. If the incident involves any written or electronic evidence such as pictures, texts, emails, social media posts, or videos, try to preserve copies.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. You do not need to make a formal report to the authorities or press charges to receive medical attention and treatment. Hospitals and clinics can discuss your options for prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
- Receive a forensic exam. If you are unsure about whether you want to report the crime to your study abroad professor or the police, that is okay. You can still have evidence collected at a local hospital and then decide about reporting at a later date.
- Seek support from the SAIV-RT. The Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team supports and assists students in navigating campus and community resources. The SAIV-RT can help you file a formal report with the University; obtain a no-contact order; assist you in contacting the police to file a police report; obtain a protective order; provide assistance with legal procedures; and provide accommodations related to class assignments and/or on-campus living arrangements.
Mandated Reporters and Confidentiality
The decision to report your assault is yours. You will not be forced to report, forced to under-report, or be prevented from reporting by university officials. Should you choose to inform your study abroad adviser or professor about your experience, it is important to know that they are mandated reporters. Mandated reporters are those who give notice to Eastern officials, and other necessary personnel, of incidents of dating or domestic violence, sexual assault and all other forms of interpersonal violence. You can trust that these mandated reporters will take such incidents seriously, will practice confidentiality protocol, and will initiate an investigation.
If a Friend Tells You They Have Been Assaulted While Studying Abroad
- Ensure their immediate safety and address any critical or life-threatening injuries.
- Relocate to a quiet area where they can feel comfortable to talk.
- Provide a thoughtful ear and listen to them. Do not interrupt.
- Believe what they are telling you and do not blame them for what happened.
- Encourage them to contact your study abroad adviser or professor. If they do not feel comfortable doing this themselves, offer to contact them.
- Do not force them to report, under-report, or prevent them from reporting. The decision is theirs to make.
- Reassure them that they can decide at a later date whether or not they want to press charges, but that physical evidence must be collected immediately.