Sexual Misconduct Abroad
We would like to affirm that those who are harassed should not have to feel the responsibility to protect themselves against any type of harassment and that it is not considered their fault or responsibility to avoid it. It is important to note, especially when interacting across and between cultures, that facing harassment of any kind can be confusing. As such, GLO staff and our partners in-country are well-suited to orient you to area norms (including safety precautions and local ways of being), offer a variety of responses (to harassment or other concerns), and support you throughout your experience. Their suggestions come from a long-informed understanding of cross-cultural engagement and local information.
If You Have Experienced Sexual Misconduct Abroad
There are many resources on various Northwestern webpages that provide information about resources and reporting of sexual misconduct. In the interest of transparency, we want to make you aware of what happens or can happen if sexual misconduct abroad is experienced and reported.
Who Can I Talk To?
Most Northwestern staff and faculty are "responsible employees," meaning if you disclose to them that you experienced sexual misconduct, they are required by law to notify the Office of Equity. When you are studying abroad, all Northwestern faculty and staff members (including paid student workers), as well as on-site program employees, are considered responsible employees.
If you disclose to someone who is a responsible employee, they can support you and help connect you with additional resources. The responsible employee will also communicate with Northwestern staff in Evanston, who may include Global Learning Office staff in addition to the Office of Equity. The information you disclose will be kept private (not confidential), meaning the fewest number of people possible will be informed in order to keep you and other students safe.
Some individuals are not considered "responsible employees", meaning they are not required to report your disclosure unless you pose a danger to yourself or others. At Northwestern, staff at CARE, CAPS, and Religious & Spiritual Life are considered confidential resources who are not responsible employees. In your host country, counselors, psychologists, other medical professionals, and religious leaders are not considered responsible employees under U.S. law and may be bound by local laws of confidentiality, but may vary based on locality.
Friends, Family, and Other Individuals
You may also wish to find support through friends, family, peers, or other individuals. Please note that all Northwestern student employees are considered responsible employees. Although friends may not be responsible employees, they are also not bound by confidentiality. Please note that if you are age 18 or older your parents will not be notified about any reported sexual misconduct, unless you provide consent, due to federal law.
What Are My Options?
What to Expect if Reporting to Police
Laws regarding sexual misconduct vary locally, nationally, and regionally. In some countries, reporting sexual misconduct endangers your safety. For example, in some countries, sexual activity outside of marriage is illegal regardless of consent; as such, you may be imprisoned if you report experiencing sexual misconduct. Alternately, some countries have laws that more specifically protect people who experience sexual misconduct than U.S. law does.
You are highly encouraged to discuss your options with on-site program staff. If you are hesitant to disclose due to their status as responsible employees, consider contacting a confidential resource.
What to Expect if Seeking Medical Attention
Medical attention can be made available for survivors of sexual violence. This can include physical, emotional, and sexual health needs, as well as a forensic exam for those wishing to pursue one. Access to a forensic exam will vary depending on local resources.
A trusted individual on site, such as a resident/faculty director or a Student Affairs staff member will often have received training on responding to a disclosure of sexual misconduct. These individuals are in the best position to provide immediate assistance, such as identifying and helping to secure access to appropriate, quality medical care.
You have the option to seek both physical medical care and mental health care while in-country through your GeoBlue Global Health Insurance or the equivalent.
In some countries, you will be able to access in-person, English-language mental health care providers. In other countries, English-language mental health care providers may be more difficult to access. Options for virtual mental health care continue to grow abroad, but may not be available in all locations.
What to Expect if Reporting to Northwestern
If you disclose to a responsible employee, they are legally required to notify Northwestern's Office of Equity. If the responsible employee is an on-site program employee, they will notify a GLO staff member who will notify Northwestern's Office of Equity. While responsible employees cannot keep a disclosure confidential, they have the utmost respect for your privacy and will only share the necessary information with staff who are required to respond.
You can also choose to contact the Senior Director, Sexual Misconduct Response and Resources, Colleen Johnston, or the Director of Global Safety and Security, Julie Friend, directly. They will coordinate with other appropriate staff members in the U.S. or abroad to address your needs or concerns, such as medical care or counseling.
When notified, Northwestern's Office of Equity will send you an email containing resources and outlining options for next steps should you choose to take any.
If you choose not to respond to the email, you may receive one additional email but will not be contacted further.
You can choose to seek resources on your own. The benefit of seeking the assistance and support of a responsible employee is that they can help you navigate resources during what is likely to be a very difficult time. It can be easier to coordinate care with the assistance of trained professionals who know how to navigate complex systems abroad. Also, we are human beings who care about your safety and well-being and will treat you with care and respect.
Friends can be a great resource for support. If someone has disclosed sexual misconduct to you, there are resources available to help you support that individual and seek support yourself.