I was sexually assaulted while studying abroad

To anyone who has been sexually assaulted while studying abroad, you are not alone. This is my personal story which I have not been brave enough to tell anyone until four months after exchange, when I finally opened up to a close friend.

Trigger Warning: Following contains content about sexual assault

I am an average girl. I am of average height and weight. I have average sized breasts. So how is it that I should come to be the victim of sexual assault?

At the beginning of my study-abroad year, I got voted “most likely to be the goody-two-shoes.” I hated this title, so I strove to break it. I thought it meant something bad, that I was the girl who would never let loose and have fun. In reality, being the “goody-two-shoes” of a group is not a bad thing.

It was this very first meeting with the other exchange students in my area that I made friends with a boy who lived in my city (for purposes of privacy, we will name him Daniel here.) Now, I thought Daniel was very handsome. He was tall and well built, and spoke with a slight accent. He seemed really experienced with girls, and I felt like I wouldn’t be enough for him, because I had only kissed three boys before exchange.

Daniel and I hung out a lot. He took me to parties and introduced me to drinking and to the “flag game.” For those unfamiliar with the flag game, the goal is to kiss people of different nationalities and thereby “exchange flags.” I thought Daniel was really teaching me to have fun. He told me repeatedly that this was the year to “slut it up.”

So “slut it up” became my motto.

I got pretty good at playing the flag game, and I always went to as many of the parties hosted by exchange students as I could. Always, Daniel was by my side whispering “slut it up” in my ear and handing me more alcohol to loosen me up.

One flags, five flags, ten, twenty.

By the next meeting with exchange students, people laughed with me about how they thought I would be the goody-two-shoes. I thought that they found me cool. However, I still hadn’t kissed Daniel.

One night we did kiss. I thought it was magical. Looking back on it, all I remember was that it was cold out and that he was a slobbery kisser. One week later, her invited me to his house. He wanted me to take my pants off, but I wouldn’t. So instead, he took off his pants and forced his way into my mouth. I gagged. It smelled like fish. When he was done, he said I was on my way to becoming a cooler girl. I felt sick to my stomach, but I believed him. I considered him a friend after all. I even wanted to be with him.

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In December there was a party. A pretty big one. I drank a lot. That night I got five flags or more, I can’t remember. One boy took me to the corner of the room and forced his hands into my pants. It didn’t feel good. The boy told me I was all his for the night. I got away by saying I would go get another drink. I don’t remember much more from the night, except that I ended up in a toilet stall with a friend who had taken care of me all night next to me. That boy asked me out a few weeks later and I became his girlfriend.

I thought that maybe having a boyfriend would stop men from doing whatever they wanted to me, but it didn’t.

By this time, I had fully gained the reputation of being a slut. Boys thought I had done all sorts of things which I hadn’t really. During parties, boys I thought were friends would get me drunk and then take me and do what they wanted to me.

I felt guilty. I thought maybe I was cheating on my boyfriend. By the end of the year, I got into a habit of drinking enough so I wouldn’t care what was going on to me. I can’t remember how many men forced me to kiss them. Forced their hands into my pants or my hand into their pants. How many times men would grab me.

I thought it was all my fault. That since I had gained a bad reputation I deserved everything that happened to me. Boys told me that I was great, that I was really a girl who knew what she wanted. But in the end, I didn’t want any of it. I didn’t want the flags, the reputation, the rumors.

I got to leave my life and reputation behind, but I still brought home my scars. Scars that may never fully heal. I still seize up when people touch me or my friends hug me. I am less talkative around boys.

I wish I had done my year differently. I wish I hadn’t listened to Daniel. I wish I had seen him for what he really was. I wish I had let my friends know what was going on, that I didn’t like what these boys were doing to me. I wish I had reported what had happened.

However, I can’t redo my year. I can only learn to heal my scars slowly at home and share my experience. Being alone in a foreign country and being sexually assaulted is hard. It may be unclear what steps should be taken, but it is not something to take lightly and shrug off. I suggest talking with close friends or family members, and reporting any incident of sexual assault. Don’t let yourself feel like an object.


  1. If you are in immediate danger, call your country’s emergency number.

  2. Go to a safe place.

  3. Call someone you trust for emotional support.

  4. Contact police or sexual assault hotline to report the incident.

This post as submitted to me anonymously. I would also like to note that victim blaming in the comments in no way tolerated.

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