Traveling to a foreign country is exciting! We want your overseas experience to be the best time of your life. While sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the victim, traveling overseas 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 woman or man, but perpetrators can be experts at quickly gaining your trust. Here are some scenarios.
- You and your best friend Jill are backpacking in Florence, Italy. You meet two guys from Australia, Doug and Brian. They hang out with you all day. They are funny and friendly. That night you all go to a club. You tell your friend you want to go home but she wants to stay and dance. Doug offers to walk you back to the hotel so he can make sure you are safe. You decline, but Doug says he is tired too and wants to go back to the hotel. You don’t want to hurt Doug’s feelings. Once back at the hotel, Doug sexually assaults you.
- You are building a house in Costa Rica for a family in need. There are 20 people in your team from six countries. You are enjoying the company of people from around the world. In just a few days the team feels like one big happy family. One evening, you take a walk down to the river by yourself. The next thing you know you are waking up, your head hurts. Someone knocked you out. Then you realize you have been raped.
- You are on a two week bus tour of six countries with your husband. A group of you are downstairs in the hotel one night. Your husband says he wants to go bed. You want to stay a little bit longer. Soon the group dwindles down to just you and two fellow travelers. The next thing you know you are waking up alone in a strange hotel room. You have been drugged and sexually assaulted.
What is common in each of these scenarios?
- The perpetrator was skillful at getting you to let your guard down. Or the situation became comfortable and familiar and you let your guard down.
- The perpetrator separated you, or waited until you were separated from the group or person you were traveling with.
- The perpetrator (s) in two of the scenarios built trust with you.
How to stay safe
- Have fun, enjoy meeting new people but don’t throw caution to the wind.
- Follow your gut. Many victims have a “feeling” something isn’t right just before an assault takes place
- You don’t have to be polite. It is okay to say no.
- Stay with the group or person you are traveling with.
- 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.
- Blend in with the crowd. Be aware of your surroundings. Are the women wearing long skirts and long sleeve shirts? If you are wearing shorts and a tank top you are going to stand out.
- Don’t look like a tourist. Don’t swing an expensive camera around your neck. Don’t open a map on the street corner and turn around in circles looking lost.
What if I am sexually assaulted?
It was not your fault! 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.
- Are you in a safe place?
- Do you need medical attention?
- Do you want to report the assault to the police?
- Is it safe to report the assault to the police?
- Do you want to prosecute your perpetrator?
- Did I just get an STD?
- Could I be pregnant?
- Do I want my parents to know?
- Should I 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.
- If you are in a safe place, call a safe person to be with you.
- If you are not safe, call a safe person to come and get you.
- Do self-collection of evidence. Put all of the clothes you were wearing, bed sheets, and so on in a paper bag.
- If there is semen present, collect what you can in a hotel glass or cup and put it in the paper bag.
- If you have any injuries, take pictures.
- 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.
Click here for instructions on contacting a SASHAA Advocate internationally.