Traveling overseas for business is exciting. A chance to meet other professionals from different countries. A chance to experience new cultures, food and business practices. While sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the victim, it is not a time to throw caution to the wind. Many perpetrators are on the prowl for a victim.
Think about how a wolf attacks a flock of sheep. He watches, he waits. He identifies his prey. Then he separates the target from the herd.
We know, you are not a sheep. You identify as a strong, independent, professional woman or man. But perpetrators can be experts at quickly gaining your trust. Here are some scenarios:
1. It is the third day of a Hospitality conference in Cologne, Germany with two colleagues from your company. At the end of the day you go to dinner. Several people from the conference join you. One of the men sits next to you at dinner. He is from Canada and in the same profession as you. As the evening wears on, you tell your colleagues you are ready to go back to the hotel. They aren’t ready to go. The Canadian fellow offers to walk you back to your hotel room for safety. He is polite and professional so you agree. He sexually assaults you back at your hotel room.
2. You are at a black tie reception at a 5 star hotel in Athens on a Saturday night hosted by the American Embassy. There are about 100 delegates from all over the world. A man from France approaches you and introduces himself. After an hour of conversation, he invites you to spend the day on his yacht the next day, Sunday. You ask if you can invite a colleague. He suggests you come alone so he can get to know you better. The man is clearly a wealthy, international, professional individual so you accept. Once you are about a mile offshore, he repeatedly rapes you.
3. You are an IT professional on assignment in India. At the end of the training day in Bangalore, food is brought for the group of 12 people. After finishing, one by one, everyone says goodbye. When everyone leaves, you pack up your presentation and head to the elevator. One of the men at the training emerges from the men’s bathroom and waits with you for the elevator to arrive. You feel uncomfortable, but then he tells you how much he learned from your training and you feel less guarded. When the elevator arrives, you both get in and continue the conversation. He presses the elevator button for the floor below. When the door opens, he pushes you into the empty hallway and sexually assaults you.
What is common in each of these scenarios?
1. The perpetrator was skillful at getting you to let your guard down.
2. The perpetrator separated you, or waited until you were separated from the group or person you were traveling with.
3. The perpetrator built trust with you.
How to stay safe
1. Enjoy meeting new people but don’t throw caution to the wind.
2. Professional people are rapists too. Don’t let the suit fool you.
3. Follow your gut. Many victims have a “feeling” something isn’t right just before an assault takes place
4. You don’t have to be polite. It is okay to say no.
5. Don’t separate yourself from the group or person you are traveling with. If you are traveling alone, leave when the group leaves.
6. Be aware of cultural norms in the country you are traveling to. Looking at someone in the eyes when you speak to them in the USA is normal. In another country it may mean you are interested in that person.
7. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be in an isolated area. Even in an office environment.
What if I am sexually assaulted?
Don’t blame yourself. Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. You may feel you can’t think straight. You are afraid. You don’t know what to do. There are so many things to consider.
1. Are you in a safe place?
2. Do you need medical attention?
3. Do you want to report the assault to the police?
4. Is it safe to report the assault to the police?
5. Did I just get an STD?
6. Could I be pregnant?
7. Do you want to tell your company?
8. Do you want to report to the American Embassy?
If you don’t know the answer to those questions immediately, it’s okay. There are some things you can do until you decide what is right for you.
1. If you are in a safe place, call a safe person to be with you.
2. If you are not safe, call a safe person to come and get you.
3. Do self-collection of evidence. Put all of the clothes you were wearing, bed sheets, and so on in a paper bag.
4. If you have any injuries, take pictures
5. If there is semen present, collect what you can in a hotel glass or cup and put it in the paper bag
6. Call a SASHAA advocate internationally toll free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can help you through the ordeal, honoring your decisions. All calls are confidential.
To find out how to dial a SASHAA advocate from the country you are traveling in click here.