Interpersonal violence (IPV) and harassment abroad: Time to ask the UNC Students


Earlier this year I posted a blog named “Crossing national boundaries: IPV prevention and intervention” that highlighted the main findings from two literature reviews on the topics of 1) Studying abroad and IPV, and 2) International students and IPV. Here is an update on what UNC Chapel Hill is doing to find out more about IPV and harassment experienced by students who study abroad:

In Fall 2013, The UNC Study Abroad Office (SAO) added a module on IPV prevention to their pre-departure online training which is required for all students studying abroad. The goal of the module is to help students identify risky situations and know what actions to take to minimize risk for themselves and for their peers.

In addition to this online training module, UNC Student Wellness is working with SAO to launch a questionnaire that will be sent out to all students who have recently returned to the USA from their program sites. The questionnaire will gather information about situations in which students experienced IPV or harassment, and their knowledge and access to relevant resources, while studying abroad.

Every year, approximately 1,300 UNC students travel to 70 countries for periods of time that range between weeks and one full academic year. A study published in 2012 researched the risk for sexual assault in a northeastern U.S. college between undergraduate female students compared to their peers studying abroad. Their findings indicate that the semester risk for having nonconsensual sexual contact while studying abroad was more than four times higher than while studying on campus (5.59% vs. 24.54%). (Kimble, Flack, & Burbridge, 2012). Precisely why UNC is taking actions to minimize the risk by empowering students with the knowledge and skills they need.

Based on anecdotal evidence, we know that some UNC students have experienced IPV and/or harassment while studying abroad, but we do not have any data that can help us understand the occurrence or needs of students upon their return to UNC. This anonymous questionnaire will shed light on the types of IPV or harassment situations students face while studying in other countries and the severity of their effects. Additionally, we hope to learn about current gaps in student services that are unique to this subpopulation. Student Wellness will analyze the data and draft a yearly report for the SAO. Based on the results of this analysis, the SAO and Student Wellness will collaborate to improve student services locally and while abroad.

UNC Student Wellness and SAO are looking forward to continue building on this collaboration to ensure safe and fulfilling experiences for students who study abroad.We hope to minimize the risk of experiencing IPV and harassment, build trust with the students, and quickly and effectively address any student needs that may arise.

Look for more information on these topics in the future at safe.unc.edu. To talk to someone at UNC-CH’s Counseling and Psychological services, visit campushealth.unc.edu/caps.

UNC Study Abroad Office

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