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Resources to combat on-campus sexual violence as an international student

Facing the aftermath of sexual harassment and assault on campus can be terrifying. Here are some resources for students around the world combatting on campus sexual violence.
BY Anandamayee Singh |   01-05-2019

sexual violence as an international student

One of the saddest truths of growing up as a woman is the realisation that most other women around you have, at some point in their life, been harassed or assaulted. Data backs this up. WHO estimates that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. However, the narrative of sexual violence cannot be dominated by heterosexual cis-gendered women. Non gender conforming and LGBTQ folks are also very vulnerable to sexual violence.  A WHO study also suggests that 11.4% of people from LGBTQ communities around the world face sexual violence in their lifetime. However, since the data was from a preliminary study, it is possible that the number is higher in real life, particularly as most members of LGBTQ communities do not report incidences of sexual violence for fear of discrimination.
 
What the numbers do show is that the reality of sexual violence is grim, especially in college campuses, where education on consent is limited and policies to address sexual violence often lax. Before embarking on the journey to higher education, it is imperative for students, especially international students to be informed on the available options. Whether it is counselling, legal backing, or just someone to talk to, students should know where to go, and who to talk to. TheBrainGain staff has compiled a list of resources and laws that support students in cases of on campus sexual violence around the world.
 

U.K.
 
When it comes to sexual assault, universities in the U.K. have no system catering specifically to students. However, in 2016, University U.K. (UUK) formed a taskforce to rewrite the Zellick guidelines, which offered suggestions on addressing sexual violence on university campuses. UUK’s guidelines go into great detail about how to handle cases where both parties are students, but  do not offer guidance on professor-student cases. UUK has also failed to offer any guidelines on preventative measures, such as seminars and mandatory trainings on consent. This is a great oversight on their part, as a Guardian survey of university students found that  only ⅓ of the respondents were informed of what constitutes harassment. While the number of disclosures from universities has increased after the guidelines were published, a Guardian study found that reporting of sexual misconduct in universities is woefully inconsistent. This is in part because the recommendations are legally non-binding, serving as mere suggestions for universities, rather than mandatory measures.
 
There is a lot of work to be done on the resources front for universities in the U.K. However, most universities provide counselors for their students. Students can also use resources outside their university. The national helpline number is 08088029999. There are also several rape crisis centers around the U.K. The largest one is Rape Crisis England and Wales, which gives information on various services for women and girls in the England and Wales area. Scotland has Rape Crisis Scotland and for those in Northern Ireland, there is the Rowan Sexual Assault reference Centre for Northern Ireland. Those affected by intimate partner violence also have an option to use the Bright Sky application on iOS and Android, which has a journal tool to record incidents of domestic violence and a directory of specific domestic abuse support services. There is also National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* (LGBT) Domestic Violence Helpline for LGBT folks and The ManKind Initiative for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse. A full list of resources and centers is available here.
 
 
Canada
 
As is the case with healthcare, resources to tackle campus sexual assault in Canada vary from province to province. Only Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia have made it mandatory for universities to have sexual violence policies in place. Even within those policies, schools often provide very little information on the timeline of investigations, leaving the survivor anxious and unaware. Many schools also have a gag order in cases that involve underage consumption of alcohol and drugs, which often means that these particular cases cannot be pursued in court.
 
While there is no all-province policy in place, student activists have been working hard the past couple of years to demand better from their legislators. In October 2017, activists from Carleton University and McGill University wrote formed a coalition called Our Turn. Our Turn crafted a plan called Our Turn Action Plan, and to implement more consistent policies against sexual violence at universities. They graded campuses across the country on their sexual violence policies. The average grade, across 60 different campuses was C-, as most universities did not approach sexual violence policies from an intersectional and pro-survivor standpoint. OurTurn, now Students for Consent Culture is a national coalition, has a 24 hour support line and helps people connect to resource centers. Other resources are dependent on provinces, and but will hopefully become more as activists continue to demand better of their provinces.

 
France
 
France does not mandate universities to have a sexual violence policy in place. However, most universities create a committee once a student issues a complaint. The committee is usually composed of health workers and social workers at the university, and a confidential report is drawn up after the complaint.
 
French universities offer their students the option to go the disciplinary or criminal route. The internal disciplinary option is a little more private, as all information is kept largely confidential until a decision is made by the disciplinary committee. If the student chooses to file a complaint with the police, a lot of the information has to be made public. Most universities do have someone accompany the student filing the complaint. This can be particularly useful if the student is not well-versed in French, and French law.While most universities do try to make the process smooth for the complainant, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the outcome of the procedure. Disciplinary committees may decide to quarantine, suspend or expel/fire the accused, but there is no guarantee that the outcome will be satisfactory for the student.
 
It is rare for universities in France to have resources committed to dealing with the aftermath of sexual violence. However, there are nationwide resources outside of university that students can use. The emergency number is 16006.  There is also the Institut National d’aide aux victimes et de Mediation, which provides support in the aftermath, particularly advice throughout the judicial process, and Collectif Feministe contre le Viol, which provides specialised help for victims of rape and sexual assault. While there is no specific organisation that caters to LGBTQ folks, the two organisations mentioned will help connect with appropriate counselors and lawyers.

 
Germany
 
German legislation related to sexual assault has historically been quite inadequate. Marital rape only became a criminal offence in 1997. Until 2016, verbal defenses, i.e. saying no, were not considered enough evidence to constitute sexual assault. Victims had to make a physical attempt to defend themselves for the crime to be considered a rape, which meant that many rapists got away with their crimes. It was the work of several feminist organisations that changed the law, forcing legislators to legally include victims who say no in cases on assault. While a colossal and important change, legislation against assault and harassment in Germany is still sorely lacking.
 
As is the case with France, there is no law that mandates a sexual violence policy in universities. While the General Equal Treatment Act ensures that those impacted by sexual violence are protected from the burden of providing proof, it mostly caters to university employees, rather than students. Few universities have clear policies on how to protect their students from harassment and sexual assault. Therefore,once again, the fate of students who file a complaint is somewhat up in the air. Even if the student chooses to file a criminal complaint, the timeline of the investigation, and the length of imprisonment, if applicable at all, is unclear.
 
Most university websites do not offer details on policies for students dealing with sexual violence. However, there are resources outside of universities that offer services in both English and German. The biggest resource pool for women dealing with sexual violence is bff, the federal association of rape crisis centers and women’s counselling centres in Germany. Some of the prominent centres, which offer services in English as well, include LARA in Berlin (which includes transgender people in its services) and the BIG hotline for women and children who have experienced domestic violence. The official hotline by the German Federal Office for Family, Senior, Women’s and Youth Affairs is the Gewalt Geegen Frauen hotline, which can be called at 08000116016.  It is dedicated to help people irrespective of gender, sexual orientation and religious orientation. 

 
Australia
 
Australia also no central system dealing with on campus cases of sexual assault. However, in July 2018 the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) introduced a set of guidelines for universities across Australia. The guidelines were the result of a survey conducted by the AHRC to understand the shape of sexual violence policies and resources at universities. Although the guidelines are non-binding, most universities have taken steps to establish an advisory body, implemented training for students and staff in relation to sexual assault and harassment, and introduced practices that enable confidentiality. However, despite these efforts, students still hesitate to report cases of assault. AHRC reports found that 87% of the students who were sexually harassed did not lodge a formal complaint because they were afraid of being disbelieved, or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The recommendations are also very recent, so it is difficult to say how effective they have been.
 
Outside of university, students can call the nationally available hotline 1800 RESPECT. There are also other hotlines for those who require translation, are hearing impaired, and specific to different states and territories. All these services provide counseling, and legal advice. There is also a university specific nation-wide organisation called End Rape on Campus (EROC). EROC helps students with their on-campus reporting process, connect with legal services and support networks, as well as provide mentoring for student activists.

 
China
 
China has been slow when it comes to implementing law against sexual harassment and assault. Its first law prohibiting sexual harassment was introduced in 2005, but was quickly followed with more laws pertaining especially to workplace harassment. Unfortunately, all laws are gender biased in China, and there is no national legislature that clearly defines sexual assault. However, the #MeToo movement in China, renamed  #WoYeShi has moved the conversation around sexual assault, particularly when it comes to proper law enforcement. #WoYeShi was started by former and current university students, and exploded on social media despite resistance from strong censorship laws in China. The movement has been so impactful,  that the second phase of the Chinese Civil Code will include more stringent laws against workplace harassment, leaning heavily on employee protection, and a national definition of sexual harassment. The code will be reviewed in 2020, and if accepted, will lead to monumental change
 
Currently, female survivors of rape can press criminal charges. For an international student, the procedure can be very expensive, as they may need an interpreter for lawyers and dealings with the police. A study conducted by Beijin Yuanzhong Gender Development Center showed that nearly 40% of women who reported sexual harassment in the workplace in China were not adequately represented in the court system. Between 2010-2017, only 34 cases focused on sexual harassment, and of these cases, only two were brought to the court, and were eventually dismissed because of lack of evidence. There is also very little information available on rape crisis centers in China. Beijing has a women’s hotline, which can be called at 86-10-64048187.  Hong Kong has a rape crisis center called RainLily, but as of yet, there is no nationwide hotline or organisation. Hopefully the changes in the Chinese Civil Code will bring about the necessary change.

 
U.S.
 
Unlike all other countries on this list, the United States has legislation in place that specifically deals with sexual assault and harassment on campus. The infamous title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments prohibits sex discrimination within education. It legally mandates schools to have a policy in place for the prohibition of sexual violence of any kind. This includes having a title IX coordinator to monitor the school’s compliance with the law, as well as measures and services to address the effects of sexual assault. For example, all campuses are required to have safe escort across campus. The federal law also mandates that schools give annual updates on the number of cases of sexual violence, and responding policies.
 
Students should contact their title IX coordinator to remain informed of resources on campus. End Rape on Campus (EROC) U.S. is also a good resource, as it provides counseling and has a list of centers and resources on its website. They also have a specific list of organisations for queer people of colour and indigenous folks. Off campus help is varied, and unfortunately, often depend on the region/state. A major, long standing and nationwide resource is the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). It created and operates the national hotline- 800 656 HOPE-- provides counseling services and carries out programs to prevent sexual violence in vulnerable communities. Their website has an extensive list of resources for those suffering from sexual violence, including victims of stalking, differently abled survivors, LGBTQ survivors, male survivors, mental health resources, military survivors and preventative organisations.
 
Despite being the country with the most extensive measures in place to address on campus sexual violence, the reality of these cases often does not pan out smoothly. Whether it is the case of Stanford rapist Brock Turner, or the return of Piterberg, a UCLA professor accused by multiple people of harassment, schools and criminal proceedings do not always do justice to the person facing sexual violence. That is the unfortunate reality of dealing with cases of sexual assault and harassment. No matter what legislation is in place, it is always going to be a fight to get the justice you feel you deserve. However, without a fight, none of the resources and legislation that are in place today would exist at all.
 
Sexual violence is immensely emotionally, mentally and physically taxing. However, knowing your options can help in moments where you, or your loved one feels utterly hopeless. At the very least, being informed can help start a conversation about how and why things need to change.
 
 
 
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