Emergencies Abroad

International Resources for Sexual Assault and Harassment

Introduction

The University of Minnesota takes issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault very seriously. According to the University of Minnesota Policy (2.3.6): Sexual assault and relationship violence, including threats of sexual assault and related relationship violence, are attacks not only on a person’s body, but also on the person’s dignity, and are not tolerated.

  • Sexual assault: any sexual contact (including, but not limited to sexual intercourse) when such contact is achieved without consent; or with the use of force, coercion, deception, or threat.
  • Rape: sexual intercourse achieved without consent or with the use of force.
  • Consent: informed, freely and actively given, and mutually understood. If physical force, coercion, intimidation, and /or threats are used, there is no consent. There is no consent if victim/survivor is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired. This includes conditions due to alcohol or drug consumption, or being asleep or unconscious.

Anyone who experiences sexual harassment or sexual assault while abroad must deal with the stress of this unwanted event in a place and culture that is unfamiliar. Being away from the support and comfort of home can exacerbate feelings of hurt, confusion, anger, and loss of control. Keep in mind that although sexual violence of any kind can have an acute effect, most victims/survivors of these incidents find a way to recover without drastically altering their everyday lives.

Tips to Consider

If you are a victim, remember, there is no “right way” to react to experiencing sexual assault. Only the survivor can decide whom to tell and what steps to take next. Below are a few tips to consider:

Talk with someone: Most survivors find some comfort in talking with someone about the assault, journaling, and/or talking with a counselor. If possible, contact your program director, talk to a friend or relative, or contact the nearest resource included in this brochure, U.S. Embassy, Consulate, or Diplomatic Mission. Be sure to understand if the person you talk to is required to tell anyone else about what you share. The University’s Aurora Center can offer confidential help.

Get medical care: Have your medical needs attended to at a clinic or emergency room. If you have the required medical, evacuation, and security insurance through the University of Minnesota, your medical care will be covered and you can receive advice on locations by contacting them.

Report the assault: Consider whether you would like to make a police report. If there is any chance you want to report your assault: Do not shower or douche; save the clothes you were wearing in a paper bag; save sheets, blankets, or anything else that may have evidence as well. Do not throw anything away or try to clean up; go to a hospital, clinic, or emergency room where you can receive a sexual assault exam. This can be performed up to 72 hours after an assault, but is most successful within the first 24 hours. If you choose not to report the crime soon after the incident, forensic evidence may be lost.

Remember: Survivors cannot change what has happened, but they do get to make their own decisions about what is best for their recovery. Some survivors feel that it is a personal victory to finish their overseas experience while others feel their recovery will be hastened by returning home.

U.S. Embassies, your program director, and contacts listed in the Directory below can tell you about local police and legal procedures, as these can often be different from in the U.S. Cultural and social attitudes toward rape and sexual assault victims may vary greatly in different countries. If you choose to report the incident to the police, ask someone to go to the police station with you—many survivors find it helps not to be alone. Remember, only you can decide if you want to take legal action; no one else can make that decision for you. In most countries, you must report the crime before leaving the country if you want it to be investigated. Many countries will not open a criminal investigation upon your departure.

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 the police in the country that you are in for the insurance to be valid.