Sexual Assault Abroad

Sexual assault and rape can happen to people across gender identities anywhere in the world. Violence, specifically sexual assault, continues to be a serious problem both on and off of college and university campuses and students heading off campus to study abroad/away should continue to be vigilant about being aware and safe, as well as understanding your role in helping to look out for one another and be active bystanders.

Sexual assault is defined as any unwanted sexual contact, including rape.

It is important to know that victims do not cause sexual assault. Any sexual contact with you without your consent—regardless of how well you know someone, how much you’ve had to drink, or whether some of the sexual activity was consensual – is wrong. 

While most students do not experience sexual assault while abroad, it is important to know procedures, resources and care information in the event that this happens to you, a friend or a colleague while abroad.

If you are sexually assaulted:

  • If you have been sexually assaulted while abroad, get yourself to a safe place and consider talking to a friend and/or to the on-site staff/ Dickinson College faculty member abroad as soon as possible. If you cannot make it home for the night, be sure you are in a safe and secure environment. Call your local contact or Dickinson faculty member/program assistant immediately and consider getting medical attention. It is completely up to you if you want to report the assault to local law enforcement or college officials. Understanding that reporting is an intensely personal process, and is considered empowering and therapeutic for some yet emotionally draining and insufficient for others.  Dickinson College respects your right to decide whether or not to report.

Talking with your on-site staff/faculty director

  • Cultural and societal attitudes toward rape and sexual assault victims may vary greatly in different countries and parts of the world. The support you receive from local law authorities, university/program staff and others, in addition to the resources available to you, will vary from country to country and program to program. In the United States, for example, if you tell a medical professional that you have been raped, he or she may be legally required to report your name and situation to the police. However, you have the legal right to refuse speaking with the police. Laws in other countries may provide you with more or less decision making power. Therefore, it is important to consult with local staff/faculty abroad and read about your host country’s legal norms regarding rape and sexual assault.

Reporting to local police

  • Whether you decide to report to local authorities or not, it is still a good idea to have a medical exam to see if you were injured and to check for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. It is important to understand that a medical forensic examination can be potentially invasive and the more you know about the examination, the better. A rape kit aims to collect evidence from a sexual assault. Evidence can be collected from your body, clothes and other personal belongings. You do not have to report the crime in order to have the examination performed. To prepare for the examination, try to avoid bathing, showering, using the restroom, changing your clothes, combing your hair or general clean up to the area. The examination usually takes a few hours and will vary. You can have someone attend the examination with you, if you want. During the examination, you will receive immediate care, go over your medical history, have a head-to-toe physical examination and discuss follow up care. Youi can stop, pause or skip any of these steps. A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) will perform the examination. There may be some discomfort associated with the exam, and you should feel free to tell the SANE nurse if you are having any issues with the examination. 
  • Be aware, though, that some countries will require the attending physician to alert the police; however, this varies by country. You may receive a physical exam and avoid legal involvement by not disclosing the sexual assault to the medical professionals, if you do not want to report the assault to the police.  If you choose to report to the police, please speak with on-site staff/program faculty director to assist you with this process, if you want. Again, reporting is completely up to you.

Care after sexual assault

  • Sexual assault is a traumatic experience and affects people very different, therefore, the care that one needs after such an incident varies. You may feel angry, embarrassed, ashamed, scared or guilty. Emotions can occur immediately after the assault, or years later. This is absolutely normal after this type of trauma and it is important that you consider your resources for help. Advice from a counselor, support group, and other survivors may help. Dickinson and on-site staff can help provide you with information on professional and legal assistance both in your host country and the United States.
  • Contacts at Dickinson are as follows:


Fact: According to United States Department of Justice document, Criminal Victimization in the United States, there were overall 191,670 victims of rape or sexual assault reported in 2005. Only 16 percent of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police (Rape in America: A Report to the Nation, 1992). Worldwide, a United Nations statistical report compiled from government sources showed that more than 250,000 cases of male-female rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. The reported data covered 65 countries.

Fact: False rape reports are very rare and are not more common than for any other felony crime. In reality, sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in the U.S. 84 percent of rapes are never reported to the police.

Fact: Rape is not sex. Sexual assault uses sex as a weapon to dominate, humiliate, and punish victims. Perpetrators plan most sexual assaults in advance. Sexual violence is not just an individual or relationship problem, but stems from institutional sexism, racism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression.

Fact: Sexual assault is a crime of power and control, not sexual attraction, and perpetrators often choose victims whom they perceive as vulnerable. Sexual assault survivors include people of all ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, races, classes, etc.

Fact: Men represent 13 percent of sexual assault survivors. Typically, the perpetrator is a heterosexual male. Being sexually assaulted cannot “make someone gay.”

Additional Resources: