Staying Safe While Volunteering Abroad
Volunteering abroad is full of new experiences at every turn! We want your time overseas to be a fulfilling and memorable adventure. Consider the following scenarios to better understand the tactics a perpetrator may use on volunteers in a new country:
You and your best friend Jill are backpacking in Florence, Italy. You meet two other foreign backpackers, 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. Doug offers to walk you back to the hotel, saying it will be safer to walk with someone. You decline, but Doug says he is tired too. You don’t want to hurt Doug’s feelings so you just let him leave with you. Once back at the hotel, Doug sexually assaults you.
You are building a house in Costa Rica with your friend John. There are 20 other people from six countries on your volunteer team… You are enjoying the company of foreigners. 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 and have a painful bruise on your head. Someone had knocked you out and raped you.
You are on a two week bus tour of six countries with your spouse. A group of you are downstairs in the hotel one night… Your spouse says they are tired and want 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 you let your guard down
- The perpetrator separated you, or waited until you were separated from your traveling companions
- The perpetrator may have built trust with you.
Some Important Things To Consider:
- Remember- it’s not your fault.
- Are you in a safe place? Call or find a reliable volunteer, friend, or family member to come and get you, if possible.
- Do you need medical attention? Where can you access appropriate medical attention?
- Is it safe to report the assault to the police? Depending on the country you are visiting, it may or may not be safe to report the incident.
- Do you want to report to the U.S. Embassy, your volunteer program or organization?
Important First Steps:
- If you are not safe, try to get a trustworthy person in your volunteer team or group to help 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 glass or cup and put it in the paper bag.
- If you have any injuries, take pictures immediately.
There are so many other things to consider, contact our crisis center to speak with a SASHAA advocate from a secure phone or email connection. Advocates are available 24/7. They can help you through the ordeal, honoring your decisions. All calls and emails are confidential.