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In some cultures, including France, male chauvinism may be more prevalent or more overtly expressed than is typical in the U.S. Women might experience or observe catcalls and other sexually-charged attention on a more regular basis, which can feel threatening. While it may seem counter to your principles, it is recommended that you ignore the attention or pretend not to understand, as engaging with aggressors can serve to encourage them and may escalate the situation. Ask your local friends or host family on how best to deal with such attention.

Unfortunately, sexual assault can also happen overseas, and the intercultural context presents certain challenges in this respect. Lack of familiarity with the language, culture, and the area can make students more vulnerable and less in a position to keep themselves safe. Additionally, differences in cultural norms regarding personal boundaries and romantic relationships can sometimes lead to miscommunication regarding intention, expectation, and consent. Students who experience sexual violence while abroad should seek safety first.

Some tips on staying safe:

  • Have fun and enjoy meeting new people, but be cautious and aware of your surroundings.
  • Follow your gut. Many victims have a “feeling” something isn’t right just before an assault takes place.
  • You don’t have to be polite if you do not wish to do something. It is okay to say no!
  • Stay with the group or person you are traveling with.
  • Be aware of cultural norms in the country you are traveling to. Looking at someone in the eyes when you speak to them in the U.S. is normal. In another country it may mean you are interested in that person. Watch how locals behave to get cultural cues.
  • Blend in with the crowd.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.