While we here at International Student Insurance have been working on sexual assault prevention programs in the United States geared at international students, it is important to recognize that this is not just a US issue. In the time of the #MeToo movement, other countries who host international students are looking inwardly to evaluate their procedures on college campuses, and realizing they have a long way to go. International students in general are considered to be at a higher risk of sexual violence since they are more likely to be isolated, lacking a safety net, perhaps new at navigating the culture of dating, and may not feel comfortable in a new language, among many other reasons. As such, it is even more important that colleges and universities provide awareness and education to help international students know their rights and resources when it comes to sexual assault. Outside of the US, other top countries that receive international students such as Canada and Australia are revamping their support services and are creating programs to shed light on what has become a major issue for colleges and universities across the world.
In Australia, advocacy groups and journalists found that their system was far from perfect. Reports of sexual assault took too long to investigate, they did not have good communication procedures in place, and some universities would even place the responsibility with the victim, advising the survivor to change their class schedule or avoid interacting with the perpetrator.
In 2017, 31,000 students across the nation were surveyed to investigate the prevalence and nature of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. The report conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) found that there was a high rate of sexual violence on college campuses, that there was widespread under-reporting, and that there was an overall lack of university policies and procedures aimed at addressing the problem. The study found that 1 in 15 university students were sexually assaulted in 2015-2016 and 1 in 2 students reported having been sexually harassed in 2016.
While we don’t yet know the impact this awareness has generated, we do know that Australian universities are reviewing their policies and procedures, and that funding has been secured to administer the study every three years to provide insight into how things are changing on college campuses.
Australia is not alone. Canada is also realizing that they need more resources to effectively educate and respond to the number of sexual assault allegations. For example, a report cited that the University of British Columbia (UBC) had ‘countless unresolved issues’ when it comes to reports of sexual assaults on campus. In response, the school is now hiring more staff, implementing more training and programming, and creating new spaces on campus to deal with sexual violence. They are working on launching a new investigation office along with support services for survivors. Many of these services have been launched in the last two years, and they are still working on streamlining services, as well as figuring out their communication plan – but all with the aim of creating a safe and supportive campus for students.
With other Canadian schools in the same shoes as UBC, a Vancouver immigrant services organization named MOSAIC is working to help school staff reach international students more specifically, since they are at a higher risk than domestic students. MOSAIC is putting together a series of workshops for staff at schools to help them develop ways to better assist students who report being assaulted. Their overall goal is to let international students who have been assaulted know that they do not have to be afraid to reach out for help.
If your school is looking for a training on Sexual Assault Awareness designed to reach international students, we recommend this training module that was compiled in partnership with RAINN. With a PowerPoint presentation, activities, videos, pamphlets, and a proctor guide that will guide the presenter through the entire training, international students will explore the concepts of consent, bystander intervention, students’ rights, reporting, and more. In addition, ISI has created a student info page for students to engage with the information and material right online, and schools are welcome to both link and share this with their international students.