Gender identity and safety abroad
- Know the customs. Gender roles are going to be different in any country you visit and there may be certain expectations about women or men in different cultures. It is a good idea to have some background knowledge on these gender roles and customs before going abroad. Are there any gendered gestures or behaviors? Is there gendered clothing?
- Be prepared. Certain sexual health, and/or feminine hygiene products or medications might not be readily available in your host country. Do your research beforehand on the availability of your preferred products and possible substitutes. If there is a certain product that you cannot find a substitute for, or a particular brand that you cannot live without, it might be a good idea to pack enough for the duration of your program. Additionally, if you take birth control, make sure you have enough to cover the entire span of time you are abroad (plus extra in case it is lost), as it may be difficult to fill your prescription in other countries.
Safety in social situations abroad
Although sexual harassment is more prominent in the United States than anywhere else, it can happen anywhere. It is extremely important to always take care of yourself and heed caution. Below are some important tips you can follow.
- Safety in numbers. One way to reduce the risk of attack or harassment is to travel with a trusted friend or friend group. Communicate your travel plans and itineraries with a trusted friend to ensure someone knows where you should be at all times.
- Self-defense. In many countries, such as the UK, pepper spray is an illegal weapon, so it is important to know which self-defense items are considered legal in your education abroad destination and which ones are better left at home.
- Be aware. Always be aware of your surroundings. If something does not look right, it probably is not. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, get out of the situation as soon as possible.
- Be safe when under the influence. Be cautious if you choose to use alcohol and/or drugs. Take necessary precautions when or if you plan on going out and drinking.
Key definitions to know
- Sexual harassment - unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.
- Sexual assault - sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:
- Attempted rape.
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching.
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body.
- Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape.
- Consent - an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent should be clearly and freely communicated. A verbal and affirmative expression of consent can help both you and your partner to understand and respect each other’s boundaries.
Consent cannot be given by individuals who are underage, intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or asleep or unconscious. If someone agrees to an activity under pressure of intimidation or threat, that isn’t considered consent because it was not given freely. Unequal power dynamics, such as engaging in sexual activity with an employee or student, also mean that consent cannot be freely given.
- Rape - Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.
- Acquaintance rape - Perpetrators of acquaintance rape might be a date, but they could also be a classmate, a neighbor, a friend’s significant other, or any number of different roles. It’s important to remember that dating, instances of past intimacy, or other acts like kissing do not give someone consent for increased or continued sexual contact.
Definitions provided by RAINN.
In case the worst should happen
If you fall victim to a sexual assault, tell the onsite staff or police immediately so that you can receive medical attention and help. Remember, it is never a victim’s fault, and your onsite staff are there to help you.
There are many resources available to you, both as a Missouri State University student and an Education Abroad student.
Missouri State University Title IX resources
The Title IX office oversees all issues involving sexualized violence, sexual assault, rape, sexual misconduct, dating and domestic violence, sexual harassment, sex discrimination, stalking, and pregnancy and parenting rights.
Information for sexual assault victims
Information on gender issues and safety
If you are interested in self-defense training, we encourage you to attend a SHARP Training event on the Missouri State Campus.