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Sexual Assault and Gender Violence Support

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You deserve to feel safe wherever you travel. Sexual and gender-related violence affects people of all genders, most often when persons in positions of power exploit others in vulnerable situations, including traveling to new places. If you need support, we're here to help. You may be far from Harvard, but you're not alone.

Resources for Sexual Assault and Gender-Related Violence

Sexual and gender-related violence continues to make headlines in the U.S. and around the globe. Many incidents, however, never receive national or international attention because those affected are not encouraged to access help, speak out, or receive support.

Please know that you have options, resources, and supports that are designed to help if you, a peer, or a colleague experience sexual harassment, sexual assault, abusive relationships, stalking, discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, or gender-related violence while abroad.

We work closely with all travelers to address concerns specific to your destination’s social and political climate, 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 and connect you with appropriate resources. International SOS case managers are available to support travelers who experience sexual and gender-related violence.

Considerations Before You Travel

Research Your Destination

Familiarize yourself with your destination's cultural norms, political and social climate, and local resources to understand risks and anticipate adjustments. Our risk ratings, country guides and LGBTQ resources are good places to start, along with the International SOS member portal and Assistance App. 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 the University’s policies, procedures, and resources for individuals who experience sexual assault or other sexual misconduct, contact your School's or unit's Title IX resource coordinator.

Talk with Someone

Talk with a member of our International Safety & Security team about any travel-related concerns regarding 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, Zoom, or email consultation.

If you would like to talk with a confidential resource, you may contact the SHARE team within the Office for Gender Equity (OGE). SHARE Counselors support Harvard community members who have been impacted by sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, abusive relationships, and gender discrimination. They offer free, confidential, trauma-informed counseling and advocacy.

If You Need Support 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 can be difficult. International SOS case managers can advise on whether or not it’s safe to stay, and they can 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

Your decision to seek support is a personal one. 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 appropriate care is not feasible locally, case managers will provide guidance on potential options for obtaining care elsewhere.

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 mental health professionals over the phone, refer you to an in-country provider, or connect you with US-based counseling resources.

For confidential support, you can contact SHARE counselors directly or call the SHARE 24/7 confidential hotline at +1-617-495-9100.

Filing a Report with the Police

Deciding whether to file a report is personal. In some countries, medical assistance cannot be accessed unless a police report has been filed; in other countries, people who have experienced dating violence, stalking, and/or sexual assault may themselves be criminalized due to local laws. This includes laws that may punitively affect individuals involved in sexual interactions outside of heterosexual marriage, as well as dating between people of the same gender.

If you'd like to discuss potential security or legal concerns before making a 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 for resources and support.

Formal Complaints and Legal Action

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

  • Write a complete record of the event. We encourage you to seek emotional support prior to and after doing so (such as with a SHARE Counselor) to appropriately care for yourself while recalling the event.
  • Photograph injuries.
  • Keep copies of any communication, messages, videos, receipts, etc.
  • If a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) examination is available, and where applicable: preserve evidence (e.g., collect clothing, linens, and bodily fluids, if present). Store evidence in a paper bag, rather than plastic, if possible.

Additional Resources & Support Organizations

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

Information received is treated with the utmost discretion and sensitivity. You can also review the GSS privacy disclosures.