PREPARING FOR AND RESPONDING TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT ABROAD
“As a partner to many U.S. universities, USFQ wanted to demonstrate our commitment to ensuring a safe environment for our international students, especially regarding sexual harassment. Title IX Solutions worked closely with our Dean of Students, Ombudsman, International Programs Office, and legal counsel to assist us in expanding our existing sexual misconduct policies and protocols to better align with Title IX regulations, while still recognizing Ecuadorian legal frameworks. Their Director of Investigations even came to Quito to train our staff to be First Responders and campus-based investigators and utilized his expertise to investigate a complicated case here on campus. As a result, we now feel even more confident in our ability to respond appropriately to incidents of sexual misconduct on campus that are reported not only by international students, but by all USFQ students.”
– Diego Quiroga, Dean of International Affairs & Research, Universidad San Francisco de Quito-USFQ, Ecuador
What issues do students face while studying abroad?
Many students experience sexual assault or harassment while studying abroad whether it’s for a summer, semester, or year. They are often left confused when it comes to reporting an incident to their home institution, the international university, or local police.
Regardless of whether they partner with U.S. colleges, international institutions are not required to adhere to U.S. federal Title IX guidelines and oftentimes lack clear or comprehensive sexual misconduct policies and protocols.
Underreporting and lack of academic research prevent us from knowing the exact percentage of sexual harassment and assault among U.S. exchange students each year, but one study indicates that the risk of sexual harassment or assault is 3 to 5 times higher while abroad. Factors that contribute to this include:
- Lack of familiarity with the local culture
- Lack of strong social networks of friends or family
- Legal access to alcohol
- Perception of vulnerability by predators
What are the challenges in reporting sexual assault while abroad?
Articles from HuffPost, Inside Higher Ed, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s The Daily Tarheel have highlighted the drastic underreporting of sexual assault during study abroad programs. They suggest U.S. students who experience sexual harassment or assault while abroad often are left confused and isolated after an incident for a variety of reasons and may not understand:
- Who to contact if an incident occurs
- National law and legal processes in the host country
- How to communicate with local police due to language and cultural barriers
- Their rights and available resources at the host country or university
- What will happen when they return to the U.S., especially if the respondent is from a U.S. college
- Which supportive measures will be available abroad and in the U.S.
What international consulting services do we offer?
Title IX Solutions, LLC founders have witnessed U.S. students bringing lawsuits against international universities for failing to adequately respond to reports of sexual violence on campus. And while non-U.S. universities are not required to follow Title IX guidelines, failing to respond to a U.S. student’s incident of sexual harassment or assault can damage a partnership with a U.S. institution.
We take a comprehensive approach to address the risk of sexual assault for U.S. students studying abroad by working with both U.S. and international universities. Services include:
For U.S. Colleges & Universities
REVIEW sexual misconduct policy and protocols for international partner institutions to identify gaps in current policies which create confusion for victims of sexual assault. We can review policies and protocols of all international partner institutions or select international institutions of interest to the U.S. university.
RECOMMEND revisions or changes for international universities’ policies and protocols.
DESIGN a sexual misconduct response protocol for your Study Abroad Office and/or Title IX Office that includes:
- Details of local and national law regarding sexual assault, including legal procedures
- Details of international university policies and protocols
- A list of international university contacts for reporting and support
- A list of local resources for physical, legal, and/or emotional support
INVESTIGATE alleged incidents of sexual assault on international soil, as needed.
For International Colleges & Universities
REVIEW sexual misconduct policies and protocols currently in place at the university.
REVISE current sexual misconduct policies and protocols to more closely align with U.S. federal Title IX guidelines while still adhering to national laws and considering local culture. The revised policy may be applicable to the entire student body, not just international students.
CREATE a list of university contacts, including campus authorities and counseling services, along with a list of local resources such as legal, healthcare, or psychological support services for victims and alleged assailants to utilize in country.
TRAIN campus faculty and staff to become First Responders and/or campus-based Investigators.
CONSULT remotely with trained campus-based investigators to aid in investigation design, witness evaluation, and overall assessment of the alleged incident.
INVESTIGATE alleged incidents of sexual assault, upon request.