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Information and Options for Survivors of Sexual Misconduct Abroad

Northwestern’s Policy on Institutional Equity  prohibits sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, dating and domestic violence and sexual harassment, whether on-campus or off-campus. Students studying abroad are covered under this policy and the procedures it provides. The University has resources and advocacy services available to students abroad. As the accessibility of resources and applicable local laws and policies vary abroad, Northwestern will work closely with the student to create a safe environment and prioritize healing. 

Northwestern University is concerned about the safety and well-being of its students and about incidents of sexual misconduct whether on- or off-campus. If you experience any type of sexual misconduct, please know that you have options, you have rights, and support is available to you. We want you to know that you have options regarding how to respond as well as how to begin the healing process.

If you are a survivor of sexual misconduct that occurred abroad, what happened to you was not your fault.

Experiencing as well as processing sexual misconduct is difficult. It can be even more confusing and complicated if it occurs in another country or culture. Survivors often experience a range of emotions including fear, anxiety and confusion. There is no one way to respond. Whatever feels like the right response to you is normal. Determining what steps to take after a traumatic experience can be difficult, especially when you are far from home. The options listed below are just that, options.

And remember, you should be in charge of your own healing process. It should be your choice whether to seek help or tell others about the experience (please see Resources and reporting options). Please read each item carefully and consider reaching out to the Center for Awareness, Response and Education (CARE) or Northwestern’s Director of Global Safety and Security or call (847) 467-3175 with questions. You may also reach out to Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance or call  (847) 467-6165.

The resources below are listed for survivors who wish to learn about or utilize them – however, not all survivors of sexual misconduct need or seek immediate medical attention, or are interested in reporting. Some survivors choose to finish their overseas experience while others feel their recovery will be hastened by returning home. The information and resources listed on this page are here to help you learn about all your options and if you have questions, consider reaching out to talk about them further.

Assessing safety

If your immediate safety is being threatened, please consider calling your designated, local emergency contact or the University Police’s 24/7 international emergency assistance line at (847) 491-3456. They, in turn, will contact Northwestern’s Director of Global Safety and Security, who will also engage with the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance.

A safety plan, particularly in cases of relationship violence and stalking, can also be an important step towards safety. A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. More information is available at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and CARE staff are available to talk and help develop a plan with you.

Medical attention

Medical attention can be made available for survivors of sexual and relationship violence. This attention can be for physical, emotional, and sexual health needs, as well as to complete a forensic exam. 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 in partnership with Northwestern’s international insurance and assistance provider, GeoBlue. In most locations, GeoBlue can provide referrals for compassionate providers experienced in treating survivors of sexual or relationship violence. Medical services vary from country to country, and if necessary services are not available, GeoBlue may be able to arrange alternatives in other locations. If language barriers exist, your trusted individual on site can usually assist with translation. Alternatively, GeoBlue may be able to provide translation services upon request.

Support from Northwestern

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident of sexual misconduct or the individuals involved, Northwestern has counselors and advocates to help you in the healing process. Support can be provided in a variety of ways, including connecting you to local resources abroad, Chicago-based resources or Northwestern-Evanston campus-based resources.

Under Northwestern’s Policy on Institutional Equity, Northwestern does not tolerate sexual misconduct of any form, including but not limited to, sexual assault, stalking, and dating and domestic violence. Such conduct violates the community values and principals of our institution and disrupts the living, learning, and working environment for students, faculty, staff and other community members. CARE exists to help students understand this policy as well as their rights and options. Speaking with CARE staff is CONFIDENTIAL. CARE is not obligated to report your assault to Northwestern. CARE staff can support you as you navigate the healing process. Skype meetings are available. Learn more about support resources.

The Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance supports students, faculty, and staff who are impacted by discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct. Specifically, the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance can help students who experience sexual misconduct:

  • connect with on-campus and off-campus resources, including medical, counseling, immigration, student financial aid, and legal resources;
  • request interim measures such as no-contact directives from the University, or housing, academic, working, or transportation accommodations
  • file a report with the University and access the University’s Complaint Resolution Process, if desired

File a report online using the Sexual Misconduct Reporting Form or call the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance at (847) 467-6165.

If the person who may have engaged in sexual misconduct is a member of the Northwestern community, then Northwestern has the ability to investigate and impose sanctions for any violations of our Policy on Institutional Equity. Regardless of their identity, all survivors have access to the support of Northwestern and CARE. However, Northwestern’s ability to investigate or adjudicate a complaint may be limited by the level of control it has over the learning environment and the person(s) involved. For example, if they are a member of the host university’s student body, enrolled in another school’s study abroad program or a third-party provider, Northwestern’s ability to investigate a situation or sanction an individual is limited although we will work with the program provider or the host university to take action. Furthermore, local laws and/or the policies of a host organization may further govern your legal options.

Northwestern University encourages individuals to report incidents of sexual misconduct to the University Police or local law enforcement officials. Timely reporting to the police is an important factor in successful investigation and prosecution of crimes, including sexual violence crimes, and may lead to the arrest of an offender or aid in the investigation of other incidents. Northwestern can assist students in reporting sexual misconduct to the University Police, local law enforcement or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Learn more about resources and reporting options.