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Sexual Assault and Gender Violence Support

Colorful illustration of famous buildings from city skylines around the world including the Sydney Opera House, Eiffel Tower, Christ the Redeemer, Burj Khalifa, and Big Ben

Sexual and gender violence can happen anywhere, but we’re here to help, wherever you’re headed. You may be far from Harvard, but you're not alone.

Resources for Sexual Assault and Gender-Based Violence

Sexual and gender violence incidents continue to make headlines in the U.S. and around the globe, including the #MeToo movement, New Year’s Eve celebrations in Bangalore, India and Cologne and Hamburg, Germany, as well as the July 2016 running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. And there are more incidents just like those that never receive national or international attention.

Please know that you have a lot of options, resources, and people that can help if you experience sexual harassment, sexual assault, or gender violence while abroad. Before departure, we work closely with travelers to address concerns specific to your destination’s culture, your reason for travel, and your background. When an incident occurs abroad, we work with case managers at International SOS, our 24/7 global emergency response program, to advise you on your situation and connect you with appropriate resources.

Before You Travel

Do Your Research

Research your destination's cultural norms to understand risks and anticipate adjustments. Our risk ratings, country guides and LGBTQ resources are good places to start, along with the member portal and Assistance App for International SOS, the University's 24/7 global emergency response program. You may also find it helpful to speak with others who have experience in the region that you’re planning to visit or who may be planning similar travel.

Review University Policies

If you'd like to learn more about University policies and resources for individuals who experience sexual assault, contact your School's or unit's Title IX resource coordinator. The Office of Gender Equity (OGE) SHARE counselors are also a good option to confidentially discuss available resources.

Talk with Us

Talk with a member of our International Safety & Security team about any concerns related to gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender-identity. We can also assist in researching and understanding the laws surrounding sexual assault in the country you'll be visiting. Contact us to set up an in-person, phone, or email consultation.

While Abroad

So what can you do if you experience sexual harassment, sexual assault, or gender violence while abroad?

Getting to Safety

Your safety is the first priority. Try to get out of the situation if it is safe to do so. It's hard for someone who hasn't had a similar experience to understand that protecting yourself from such an attack can be difficult. International SOS case managers can advise on whether or not it’s safe to stay and explore options for relocation. Call +1-617-998-0000, or start a chat or call through the Assistance App.

Getting Medical Attention & Mental Health Support

If you need medical advice or attention, contact International SOS by phone at +1-617-998-0000 or through the Assistance App. In some countries, post-exposure prophylaxis and emergency contraceptives are not legal or universally available. International SOS case managers can provide advice and referrals to local facilities for care and evidence collection, coordinate transportation and payment, and, if needed, evacuate you to a regional facility.

If you would like to speak with a mental health professional, contact International SOS by phone at +1-617-998-0000 or through the Assistance App. In some countries, linguistic and cultural differences can impede the quality of care. International SOS can connect you to English-speaking mental health professionals over the phone or refer you to an in-country provider. Connection to Harvard-specific (e.g. SHARE counselors) and U.S.-based counseling resources can also be provided.

For confidential support, you can contact SHARE counselors directly.

Filing a Report

Your decision to report is personal. In some countries, medical assistance cannot be received unless a police report has been filed; in others, people who have experienced sexual assault may themselves be criminalized due to existing laws prohibiting premarital sex.

You can report the assault to law enforcement if it is safe to do so. This could lead to finding the person(s) responsible and preventing others from experiencing assault. Or it may not; they may not be found, they may not be charged, or there may not be laws against what happened to you in your host country.

If you'd like to discuss potential security or legal concerns before making the decision to report to police, first contact International SOS by phone at +1-617-998-0000 or through the Assistance App. Case managers can provide information on local laws and the capabilities of local law enforcement. They can also advise on filing a local police report, provide a list of local lawyers, contact your local diplomatic representation (if available), and coordinate with Harvard’s Office for Gender Equity or Office for Dispute Resolution.

Formal Complaints and Legal Action

If you're considering filing a formal complaint or pursuing legal action, there are several steps you should take immediately or soon after the incident.

  • Preserve evidence (e.g. collect clothing, linens, and bodily fluids, if present).
  • Write a complete record of the event.
  • Photograph injuries.

Additional Resources & Support Organizations

*Confidential resource

Office of BGLTQ Student Life: +1-617-496-5716, confidential resource

MBA Sexual Assault Counselors 24/7 hotline: +1-617-998-HELP (4357), confidential resource

U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs: +1-202-501-4444, confidential resource

In addition to conduct that occurs on Harvard property, the University’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy applies off Harvard property if the conduct was in connection with a University or University-recognized program or activity. Information received is treated with the utmost discretion and sensitivity. You can also review the GSS privacy disclosures.