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Health & Safety
for Study Abroad

Sexual Safety While You're Abroad

Whether you are living on campus at SDSU or spending time abroad, it's only smart to practice safe sex — wherever you are.  Find information on contraception and healthy relationship resources, as well as sexual health and sexual violence awareness/ prevention on SDSU's Health Promotion website.

LGBTQ students and sexual safety abroad

LGBTQ students who are open about their sexuality in the U.S. may feel pressure to modify their behavior in a culture where homosexuality is either not accepted — or is even against the law. (Read more about LGBTQ students abroad.)

The following information is provided by the Diversity Abroad website:

If you are an LGBTQ student, you need to understand that coming out while you are abroad has implications and can affect your experiences. Some countries and cultures are open and accepting of LGBTQ people, but in other places you may encounter stares or even hostility.

Depending on where you go, openly expressing your sexuality may put your safety at risk. If you will be living with a home stay, discuss with your study abroad advisor or program director whether or not you should come out to your host family. [more]


Women and sexual safety abroad

It is advisable to dress and act like the local women, and they can be a good resource if you need advice on how to stay safe in the area.  Be aware of cultural differences, including body language, that may be misinterpreted in your host culture.  If you get lost or need directions, it may be safer to ask a woman than a man. (Read more about women students abroad.)

The following precautions are provided by the UC Berkeley Study Abroad website:

  • Women and men are not affected equally by alcohol: Women make up about two-thirds of American study abroad students, and in general, women will be more affected by the alcohol they consume than a man of the same size and weight. Women typically have a higher percentage of body fat than men and will absorb more of the alcohol they consume. Women also tend to have less of an enzyme which helps to break down alcohol in the stomach. As a result, women can absorb almost a third more alcohol than men when they drink.
  • Risk of Sexual Assault: Alcohol use can result in a number of sexual consequences, including unprotected sex; sexual assault; greater exposure to HIV/AIDS and STD's; and pregnancy. Most sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol on the part of the perpetrator or the victim. Alcohol misuse can result in impaired judgment, which can put you at risk for either committing a sexual assault or becoming the victim of a sexual assault.
  • Date rape drugs: Rohypnol (also called "roofies" or the "date rape" drug) and GHB are two drugs that are often implicated in sexual assaults. These drugs are sometimes used recreationally but are often given to a person without their knowledge or consent. They are odorless and tasteless (GHB can leave a slightly salty taste in a drink) and can be easily dissolved in a drink. When either of these drugs is administered, you can suffer from dis-inhibition, loss of consciousness, and the inability to remember events that took place while under the influence.
  • Tips for staying safe:
    • Do not accept beverages, including nonalcoholic ones, from someone not known and well trusted.
    • In a bar, only accept drinks from the bartender or wait staff.
    • Always watch your drink at bars and parties. Never leave your drink unattended. Be aware of what's going on around you.
    • Be alert to behavior of friends. If someone appears much more drunk than they should be, considering the amount of alcohol consumed, be concerned and closely monitor the person's behavior.
    • If you feel dizzy, disoriented or physically uncomfortable in any way, tell someone you trust and ask for help in getting home.
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Dating and sex while abroad

Find good advice on UC Berkeley's Study Abroad website.

Resources for Travelers

Her Own Way
This publication is filled with practical tips specifically of interest to the female traveler (from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade)

Journey Woman
Travel tips geared toward women, including everything from personal travel stories to what to wear.

Diversity Abroad
Offers tips for LGBTQ students, minority students, and students with disabilities who are considering study abroad. 

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