Sexual Health Abroad

If you are sexually active while you are abroad, please be aware that laws, cultural norms and risks related to sexual activity may vary widely, and it is important, therefore, to consider the context of your individual situation and assume a greater degree of caution.

Please also note that safer sex products may be more difficult to obtain abroad, or the quality may vary (as in the case of condoms), so you may want to take an adequate supply with you. Access to sexual health services can vary widely as well.

If you have any questions or need information about these matters before or during your program, please do not hesitate to ask your Faculty Program Leader, program coordinator/administrator, health professionals, health insurance providers and consult Student Health Center’s web resources on Sexual Health and UCEAP’s web resources for the LGBTIQ Community.

Safer Sex

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and syphilis continue to pose serious health risks in virtually every country. HIV, which can lead to an AIDS diagnosis if left untreated, is not only transmitted sexually but also through contaminated hypodermic needles and infected blood supplies.

Please exercise all precautions, including the use of condoms, to prevent contraction of sexually transmitted infections. Anyone who is planning to be sexually active should carry condoms or other safer sex products. Remember that many STIs do not exhibit obvious symptoms or only do so at certain stages, which means they can be transmitted without anyone knowing.

Also remember that information related to sexual activities, STIs, diagnosis and means of transmission varies widely. Individuals may not fully understand how transmission of infections occurs, may be unfamiliar with signs of infection or may not even know that such infections exist. Again, always consider the context of your situation and assume an appropriate degree of caution.

For information on sexually-transmitted infections and prevention, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sites on STIs and HIV and Student Health Center’s Sexual Health page.

Sexual Harassment

UCSC Study Abroad is particularly concerned about students facing sexual harassment abroad. Harassment can be between two students, between a professor and a student, between a home-stay family member and a student, between a host local and a student, etc. While harassment issues may be difficult to identify in different cultures, a useful rule of thumb is to assume that sexual harassment consists of any unwanted sexual advances and/or behaviors no matter what the form (verbal, visual, written, physical, etc.). Trust your judgment and intuition. If a situation makes you uncomfortable, it needs to be addressed. Seek immediate help from your Faculty Program Leader or any onsite coordinator/administrator/official.

If you would like confidential support around an incidence of sexual harassment, which includes learning more about your rights and options, please contact the UC Santa Cruz’s Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education.

If you would like to file a report of sexual harassment, please contact the Title IX.

Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault includes any unwanted sexual act that is attempted or committed without a person’s consent. In California, this includes unwanted vaginal, anal or oral sex, as well as unwanted touching of intimate body parts. Sexual assault can be committed by a partner, date, spouse, classmate, instructor, friend, acquaintance, family member, stranger, etc. The University of California policy utilizes an Affirmative Consent standard. Consent is an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious agreement to participate in sexual activity. It is voluntary and revocable at any time. Consent cannot be given when an individual is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, forced or threatened, underage, or unconscious. Affirmative consent means that consent for one activity is not consent for further sexual activities.

Please remember that sexual violence is never the fault of the victim.

More information on UCSC’s policy. Your interactions through any UCSC Study Abroad program is an official university activity and all campus policies apply. All participants are urged to follow the guidelines below to help reduce the risk of sexual assault as well as ensure their general safety while traveling abroad:

  • Before departing, read about the cultural norms, expectations, social customs and practices – especially those related to dating and romantic customs – of the host country. Understanding these norms does NOT mean you should accept unwanted sexual contact. Instead, it is meant to educate yourself about gender relations, verbal or body language and social cues around dating, which may be considerably different from the United States. 
  • Understanding cultural norms helps to understand unfamiliar behavior and also to be aware of people who are not respecting your boundaries. 
  • Regardless of the country, cultural norms or context, it is ALWAYS ok to say no to unwanted advances. 
  • NEVER walk home alone at night and NEVER allow any of your classmates to do so. This applies to both men and women and is crucial to reduce the risk for a wide variety of threats – pickpocketing, physical assault, kidnapping, accidents, etc. – and not just sexual assault.
  • Drink responsibly and be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you choose to drink, designate someone in your group to be a designated non-drinker. Have a cell phone on you at all times, keep it charged, and keep important phone numbers saved in your phone.
  • Watch your drink at all times, and do not accept drinks from strangers. It is possible for someone to slip something into your drink.
  • If you notice a concerning interaction or sense a friend is being coerced or in danger, intervene. Introduce yourself, make yourself present, and offer a way out of the situation. Remember that people can’t give consent if they are incapacitated.
  • Never accompany a stranger anywhere, and be wary of strangers who claim they are in need of help.
  • Trust your gut.
Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. If you or a friend are needing support due to a situation that occurred during study abroad, please contact the UC Santa Cruz’s Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education (CARE). CARE staff would be able to speak with you about the incident in a confidential setting and inform you of your rights and options.