My goal with Travel-Safer is providing you with the know-how to avoid dangerous situations; however, in the unfortunate event that the unthinkable becomes reality you should know what you’re dealing with and how to pick up the pieces. The positive: According to a 2010 CDC survey on sexual violence, approximately 14% of the incidents were committed by a stranger. For the traveler, this means that a rape attempt overseas would most likely be a crime of opportunity; ie, you can drastically lessen your chances of being a victim with good awareness and by making good decisions (see list below). So first let’s talk about how to avoid becoming a victim.
Some suggestions from RAINN:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation.
- Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around. Also do some research beforehand to know which areas are to be avoided
- Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do. Read more tips for blending in.
- Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be. Author Gavin DeBecker really hones in on this in his book The Gift of Fear – read my review for more.
- Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.
- Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.
- Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.
- Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.
During the attack:
Every situation is different. You alone can make the decision whether to fight or to just hold on. The best advice I’ve heard is this: Do whatever it takes to stay alive.
The unthinkable has happened. Now what?
- Get to safety.
- Report the attack.
- Seek medical assistance.
Things to know:
Be aware that a lot of forensic evidence can be collected after an attack. The immediate impulse may be to wash immediately; however, this can remove traces of the attack which could be used to prosecute the attacker. RAINN provides more information on what to do in the US in the event of an attack as well as a list of international resources and centers which can provide assistance or information overseas. The National Center for Victims of Crimes is also a great resource for coping with the trauma.
Though it may be uncomfortable to discuss, I feel it’s extremely valuable to help prevent others from sexual violence and spread awareness for those who may currently be coping with a previous attack.