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University explains assault report process for study abroad

| Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Every year, Notre Dame students travel abroad to more than 30 sites in more than 20 countries. According to the University’s admissions website, more than 50 percent of its students will participate in one of these programs. While studying abroad offers students the opportunity to learn from another culture, the immersive experience also includes new risks and can bring students face-to-face with sexual harassment and assault.

Tom Guinan, associate vice president for administrative operations for Notre Dame International, said much like for students studying on the main campus in South Bend, preventing sexual assault is emphasized to those traveling abroad.

“This is one of the most important topics that we address prior to students going abroad, and we have mandatory training sessions for all students going abroad,” he said. “We have them in the spring and fall and summertime … we have Keri Kei [Shibata, deputy chief of safety services] and some of the other folks around campus advise students on just prevention.”

According to Guinan, there are three main types of study abroad programs: students who are fully enrolled in an overseas institution, third party providers who put students into places where they want to study and “global gateways,” such as the London program, where Notre Dame staff are actually “on the ground” to work with students. The first two categories have their own “mechanisms for reporting, preventing and dealing with sexual assaults that happen on their campuses,” Guinan said.

“The one obvious complicating factor here is that St. [Joseph] County and [Notre Dame Security Police] typically would be involved in the criminal investigations,” he said. “We have relationships with offices in each location so the students know legal remedies they might pursue in those countries and the laws related in each country to sexual assaults are different.”

Guinan said if a student is assaulted abroad, especially if the complainant and respondent are both Notre Dame students, resources are available on campus for them to use. Once a student reports an assault to the University, the priority is to help the student receive any necessary medical attention, he said.

“In any of those circumstances, if a student is a complainant, and the respondee is a Notre Dame student, to the extent we are notified about this, either on campus or through our through third party providers and the folks overseas, the first step we take is to be sure the student is aware of medical resources overseas,” he said.

“We then contact the student in varying ways, based on where they actually are and offer them pretty much the same types of services we would offer if they were on campus,” Guinan said. “If it’s a known Notre Dame situation, we would actually refer them back to the Title IX coordinator on campus, because even though the host institution has their own protocols and wants to take action, it is something that would come back to Notre Dame and the resources available through the Title IX Coordinator would be made available to that student.”

Even with these resources available, Guinan urges students to be more vigilant abroad than they might be while on campus.

“We remind the students, both before they leave and when they arrive on site, that they are still Notre Dame students and so that the expectations and standards of conduct are still with them as they go abroad.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley is one of the Associate News Editors for The Observer. A junior majoring in English and the Program of Liberal Studies, she hails from Flushing, MI and lives in Flaherty Hall.

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