Sexual Health Abroad

Header Image, Health and Safety

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 some means of safe sex and contraception 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 reproductive 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 the UC Davis Student Health Center’s web resources on Sexual Health and UCEAP’s web resources for the LGBTIQ Community.

Safe Sex

Sexually transmitted infectious diseases (STDs or 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. The HIV virus, which is responsible for AIDS, 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 diseases. Both men and women who are planning to be sexually active should carry condoms. Remember that many STDs do not exhibit obvious symptoms or only do so at certain stages, which means they can be transmitted without either partner’s knowledge.

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

For information on sexually-transmitted diseases and prevention, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sites on STDs and HIV/AIDs and the UC Davis Student Health Center’s web resources on Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Sexual Harassment

"The University of California is committed to creating and maintaining a community in which all persons who participate in University programs and activities can work together in an atmosphere free of all forms of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation, including sexual. Specifically, every member of the University community should be aware that the University is strongly opposed to sexual harassment and that such behavior is prohibited both by law and by University policy. It is the intention of the University to take whatever action may be needed to prevent, correct, and if necessary, discipline behavior which violates this policy." -- University of California Systemwide Sexual Harassment Policy Statement, April 23, 1992.

UC Davis Study Abroad is particularly concerned about students facing sexual harassment abroad. Harassment can be between two students, between a professor and a student, or between a home-stay family member and a student, etc. Knowing how to identify harassment and where to report an incident can help to maintain a safe, harassment-free environment.

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.) or the context (in a residence, school, workplace, bar, 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 and/or contact the UC Davis Harassment and Discrimination Assistance Program.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence includes any unwanted sexual act that is attempted or committed without a person’s consent. Sexual assault can be committed by a partner, date, spouse, classmate, instructor, friend, acquaintance, family member, stranger, etc. UC Davis works within an Affirmative Consent standard. Consent requires mutual agreement, can be revoked at any time, and cannot be given if incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, if there is force or threat of force, or intimidation. Please remember that sexual violence is never the fault of the victim.

More information on our policy (Pages 1-3). Your interactions through any UC Davis 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 is it 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, culture 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 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 drunk or incapacitated.
  • Never accompany a stranger anywhere, and be wary of strangers who claim they are in need of help.
  • Trust your gut.
  • The UC Davis Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education (CARE) provides confidential resources for students who have experienced any form of sexual violence, as well as prevention education. More information.