Guidelines for Best Practices in Responding to Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct | ISBN: 978-1-952376-10-8


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Sexual and gender-based misconduct1 is harmful to an individual’s well-being, can be disruptive to students’ educational experiences, and can damage an institution’s reputation. While laws and regulations governing educational institutions’ and programs’ responsibility in such matters vary from country to country, the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad (5.1.6) tell us that having policies and procedures in place to prevent such misconduct wherever possible and to respond to it when it arises is not only best practice in our field but also mandated by the Standards. 

An effective approach to the evolving expectations around sexual and gender-based misconduct prevention, reporting, and response requires constructive dialogue among all responsible parties that is guided by professionals with expertise in this area. 

These guidelines follow the style of the Standards by offering specific advice and prompts for education abroad professionals to prevent, respond to, and report sexual and gender-based misconduct abroad. They are intended to be used by colleagues operating in countries around the world to create infrastructures that help to protect and support students facing sexual and gender-based misconduct and to guide conversations between partners operating in countries with different regulatory environments related to sexual and gender-based misconduct. 

The key components of best practice in responding to allegations of sexual and gender-based misconduct are: 

  • Having comprehensive policies and procedures in place before participants leave the home campus. 
  • Ensuring students understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to the policies and procedures before they leave the home campus. 
  • Ensuring that those policies and procedures are consistently followed in all locations. 
  • Ensuring that those policies and procedures take local laws and context into account. 

Footnote 1:  Sexual and gender-based misconduct is frequently used as an umbrella term by colleges and universities. For purposes of this document, “sexual and gender-based misconduct” will be used broadly to include:
  • Sexual and gender-based harassment including sexual assault and violence that are at a minimum, violations of state or federal criminal law, but are also violations of students’ and employees’ civil rights and violations of the institution’s code of conduct and employee handbooks.
  • Involves verbal, nonverbal and physical acts of a sexual and/or gender-based nature that are unwelcome and create a hostile environment on the program. Examples include but are not limited to sexist jokes, gender harassment, flashing, groping, catcalls, rape, relationship-based violence, stalking, and revenge porn.

A note on U.S. federal laws: 

Historically, U.S. federal laws have created specific obligations for U.S. colleges and universities regarding the prevention, reporting, and response to sexual and gender-based misconduct that occurs when participants are abroadIn 2017, The Forum on Education Abroad published the Sexual Misconduct, Education Abroad and Title IX/Clery Act guidance on compliance with those U.S. laws when they apply overseas.2 These current Guidelines are in part a response to the most recent Title IX Final Rule which negated overseas compliance, published in May 20203, and aim to provide colleagues with best practices in responding to incidents of sexual and gender-based misconduct. During the preparation of these guidelines, the Department of Education withdrew its Clery Act Handbook (and ostensibly, according to a cover memo, obligations for Clery compliance in study abroad and distance learning). Many institutions maintain such obligations in their Codes of Conduct, and future administrations may return to the prior approach to addressing crime, violence, and harassment in distance learning and study abroad. Therefore, when a program or partnership involves at least one partner institution that is based in the U.S., the following guidelines should be used in conjunction with the aforementioned guidance to ensure good practice and regulatory compliance.

Footnote 2: The Forum on Education Abroad. (2017). Sexual misconduct, Education Abroad and Title IX/Clery Act.
Footnote 3: Summary of Major Provisions of the Department of Education’s Title IX Final Rule 



The Forum thanks the following individuals for their contribution to the preparation of these Guidelines: 

  • Marne Ausek, Kenyon College 
  • Gian Franco Borio, AACUPI 
  • Lisa Johnson, Smith College 
  • Amy Lancaster, Wofford College 
  • Jodi Malmgren, St. Olaf College 
  • Matthew Rader, IES Abroad
  • Stephen Robinson, Champlain College, Dublin Campus 
  • Coryn Shiflet, University System of Georgia 
  • Joseph Storch, State University of New York System 
  • Ann-Margaret Themistocleous, Anderson University

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