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Surviving a Rape or Sexual Assault While Travelling

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 30 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Surviving A Rape Or Sexual Assault While Travelling

Rape and sexual assault are terrifying wherever they occur, but sexual violence perpetrated while travelling can be even more traumatic because you are far from your personal support networks and may have little understanding of how a foreign justice system operates. Victims of sexual violence overseas may not follow up on the crimes because of the logistics of travelling, but this does not mean that the abuse did not occur or that it should be ignored. If you find yourself the victim of sexual violence abroad, do not hesitate to take care of your safety and well being before all else.

Get To A Safe Place

Following a rape or sexual assault, make it your first priority to get away from your attacker and to a safe location. No matter the time of day, look for an area populated by other women and try not to flee to a place that is solely inhabited by men. Shops, hotels and restaurants are public places that usually welcome anyone. If you have been visibly beaten, injured or had your clothes torn then you need to know that you will attract attention. Do not let this stop you from seeking a safe haven.

Confide In Someone You Trust

When you feel that you have found a safe place, confide in someone you trust about what has happened to you. This may be a travelling companion, tour operator or member of a hotel staff. While it may be hard to involve virtual strangers in this crisis, do not let shame or embarrassment stop you from seeking help. You were the victim of an attack, you did not deserve it and you should never feel as though you have to take responsibility for it.

Contact Local Victim's Services

If possible, contact a local victim's service such as a rape crisis centre or sexual assault helpline. These services exist to help women navigate the medical and legal systems of the area in order to obtain the best care possible following a rape or sexual assault. Such organisations may also offer counselling and support groups for victims which you may find a comfort if you otherwise feel alone. If you need a translator to access these services do not hesitate to ask for one.

Access Medical Care

Whether or not you can get in touch with a victim's support service, try to find medical care following a rape or sexual assault. Among other injuries, pregnancy and STIs can both be a result of such attacks so you'll need to have a thorough screening as quickly as possible. In some locations emergency contraception may be able to be prescribed in order to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Seeking medical care immediately will also give you the best chance of recovering evidence that you can use against your attacker in the future. Try not to bathe, change clothes or wash clothes before getting medical care, and if possible attempt to see a doctor within 72 hours of the rape or sexual assault. If you prefer a female doctor or translator during this time make this clear from the start. Contacting your local consulate or embassy may help you determine the best avenue of medical care for your current situation.

Report the Crime

Reporting the crime is necessary to bring legal proceedings against an attacker, however some women do not feel comfortable going to the police in a foreign country. If you decide that you do not want to report the crime, do not allow anyone to make you feel as if you are weak or somehow letting others down. If you do want to report the crime, contact your local consulate or embassy for further information about the country's justice system. The government may also be able to contact your family or friends, recommend a lawyer, provide an emergency loan and help with the reporting and/or translation during police interviews.

Seek Counselling

Whether you choose to continue travelling or return home following an episode of sexual violence is up to you. However, women who have survived a rape or sexual assault abroad should seek the same counselling that they would if the attack had happened at home. Using a telephone helpline, logging on to a support group or even journaling about your feelings are all good ways to deal with your emotions in the short term, but for long term relief you will most likely want to engage in consistent face-to-face therapy sessions with a counsellor of your choosing. For this reason many women choose to cut their travels short, return home and access counselling services as quickly as possible following a rape or sexual assault abroad.

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