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Study Abroad and Sexual Assault: What's the Connection?

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 11, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Last month Middlebury College, a small liberal arts college located in Vermont, released a study with some striking results. The study suggested that women who study abroad are more likely than their peers who remain in the U.S. to experience some kind of sexual assault while in college. There are several possible explanations as to why this may be the case: easier access to alcohol, weak social networks, and differences in cultural cues. Considering that the majority of students who study abroad are women (IIE Open Doors Report) and there is a greater push to get students to study in non-traditional (generally non-English speaking) countries, professionals working in student exchange need to take a more serious look at how to prepare young women for their experience abroad.

There are ways that institutions and study abroad providers can better prepare their female students when they go abroad, though.

Pre-Departure Training

Talking about the possibility of sexual assault abroad into the pre-departure discussion is one place to start. Discussing resources available to students while they're abroad is key, but it is also important to let students know that they have resources available in the case something does happen. Building awareness among students is imperative.

Mechanisms for Reporting Incidences

Program providers and institutions managing their own programs should also make information about the resources available to students while they're abroad more overt. If there isn't an existing protocol for handling incidences of sexual assault, there should be. The Forum on Education Abroad's publication "Standards of Good Practices in Education Abroad" offers good guiding questions for providers.

This topic is important issue because the students ultimately benefit from better preparation for their time abroad and providers and institutions benefit from students with positive accounts of their time abroad.

If you would like to share your thoughts, email us at members@diversitynetwork.org

Tags:  Resources  safety  sexual assault  Study Abroad  women 

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