Preventing sexual assault
This article is a travel topic
Perpetrators of sexual assault often choose their victims for just one reason: their vulnerability. For the perpetrator, the crime is not about meeting their sexual needs. It is about their sick desire to control other people and to inflict pain on others. Typical perpetrators do not necessarily fit the stereotypes of rapists and do not look like "monsters"; they often look very ordinary, are well dressed and groomed, hold steady jobs, are married and raising families, and in every way blend in with the upstanding members of the population. All too often, they seem like kind, trustworthy people. And it is not uncommon for a sexual assault to begin under the guise of helping the victim or interacting with the victim in a manner that is viewed as normal and expected.
It is pretty easier for a traveler to become a victim of a sexual assault due to the vulnerability factor. Travelers are frequently unfamiliar with the area where they are visiting and are very likely to accept help from strangers. A seemingly helpful stranger may be motivated solely by the opportunity for their next victim.
Additionally, visitors to a place may be perfect victims because they are often unfamiliar with law enforcement in the area, sometimes less trusting of that law enforcement, and therefore less likely to seek help. And since a victim is often needed to testify in court, and there is a good chance a traveler is unlikely to be able to return to the area for a court appearance, prosecution becomes more difficult. Yet regardless, the victim has been violated.
Definition of sexual assault
Sexual assault includes but is not limited to forcible rape. Many actions constitute sexual assault. This includes forced physical contact of a sexual nature, coerced sexual contact that is not physically forced but nevertheless unwanted by the victim, indecent exposure by the perpetrator, forced or coerced indecent exposure of the victim, unauthorized filming of the victim's privates, or certain other forms of sexual behavior against the will of the victim. A perpetrator may even take advantage of a seemingly normal touch and take it a little too far and make it sexual.
Attacks can be male on female, female on male, male on male, and female on female. It is not uncommon for the victim not to know that what occurred to them was a sexual assault. Many such attacks occur through seemingly incidental contact and could be hard to prove.
Things to do
Know who is a real friend
While traveling, it is very tempting to be friendly, especially if you are a friendly person. You may be one who enjoys striking up conversation and meeting others. It is not uncommon to feel that someone is a close friend of yours after meeting them just once. And there is nothing wrong with that.
But it takes much longer before you can call someone a 'trusted friend.' A person you meet may be the most honest in the world. But it takes time for you to get to know that.
In reality, a trusted friend means someone you have known for a long time, not someone who you just met in the town you are visiting or on your tour group. A trusted friend could be your spouse, a member of your family, or a friend you have known for at least several years and whose values you have gotten to know.
It is perfectly fine to view someone you meet as a great friend for the future and someone who may one day have that trusted status. But this does not come overnight. Wait until one has been put to the ultimate test of trust.
Things to avoid
Avoid being isolated with a person you do not know. Whether it be in a hotel room, a vehicle, or even a public but secluded area, the fact that no one else is around makes it possible for assault to occur, given that there are no witnesses and it is harder for the victim to seek help.
Even for someone to be with a group of unknown people in an isolated situation, or a few vulnerable persons to be with a few unknown individuals can pose a problem.
Drinking with strangers
Many sexual assaults occur by a perpetrator buying the victim drinks, which may seem like a friendly gesture, and when the victim is intoxicated enough, he/she will become more submissive and often semi-conscious, and is particularly vulnerable at this time.
Drinking is not an activity to avoid altogether. It is a popular activity for tourists in some places. But drinking should take place with care.
A large percentage of rapes that occur while away from home occur this way. Tourists are more apt to drinking while on vacation, and the allure of a drink paid for by someone else, paired with the opportunity to make new friends, is appealing.
Long distance relationships
Since the advent of the internet, numerous people who live in different cities, countries, or even continents have met each other online, then arranged to meet each other in person. Some really great relationships have formed this way, including everything from romances, platonic friendships, business partnerships, and a lot more. Most people who meet each other first online and then later in person are perfectly safe and there is no need to fear them. But given that any odds exist of crime, often sexual in nature, occurring through such meeting, it is necessary to take precautions during a first meeting and even subsequent meetings until you get to know someone well enough.
Ways to dress
Your attire can have an impact on your vulnerability. No, not the attractiveness of how you dress. Some attractive fashions may actually protect you. And some unattractive ways to dress can make you a target.
One thing to consider is you mobility in what you are wearing. How quickly does it enable you to move around. If you need to escape or fight back, could your garments impede this?
Another factor is how easy it is for someone else to undress you. Garments that take longer to remove provide more protection because the attacker prefers greater ease in removal. Overalls and jumpsuits provide the most protection in this regard. But they are not everyday fashion that all women typically wear. Still there are other types of clothes that are harder to remove.
For example, if you wear slacks or a skirt with a belt, choose a belt that is complicated to unfasten. Of course, you know how to. But one who is unfamiliar with this belt may not.
Closures at the back or side of a garment also provide greater protection than those at the front. To increase this protection, closures in different locations (e.g. a zipper or buttons at the back or side and a belt that buckles at the front) add to the difficulty of a garment being removed against one's will.
Finally, those who wear skimpy outfits may attract more attention and may be seen as "easy to get with". Keep in mind how others may perceive you and how you act by your clothing. A cleavage revealing shirt or shorts with sexual phrases on the buttocks might not be a good idea and may raise your chance of being assaulted.
As a driver
When you are driving, you have quite a lot of control. To a degree, that is. But there are plenty of ways in which driving can expose you to danger. And knowing is the best way to prevent these dangers.
Unfortunately, numerous crimes occur in which a perpetrator pulls over a victim under the guise of being a police officer. Police badges, uniforms, auto decals, and even the lights and sirens found on police vehicles are quite easy to obtain. The same can be said for the models of vehicles often used by real police officers. For this reason, it is quite easy and common to pull off the impersonation of a member of law enforcement. And the motive for doing so is usually quite sinister.
If you are driving and a police officer is about to pull you over, put on your flashers to indicate you intend to stop. Then wait until you find a safe, well populated area to stop. If you have a mobile phone, call 911 (United States) and ask if there really is a police officer attempting to pull you over. And you have the right to request a second officer come to the scene. Another option you have is to drive straight to the police station if you know its location.
On public transportation
While most public transportation is safe, there are plenty of dangers lurking on bus and rail lines. Knowing in advance is your best protection. Here are some tips that can protect you when riding the bus or rails.
Hotels, motels, and other similar facilities are a basic part of travel for many. Such places can be a sanctuary away from home, a place for us to enjoy. But like anything else, they can vary in safety and security.
Here are some things to consider:
Levels of security vary in each lodging facility. Currently, there is no security rating system for lodging facilities. Therefore, if you are concerned, it may be worth calling the facility in advance and asking about the details of their security.
To get a room that optimally meets your security needs, make note of your wishes when booking. The farther in advance you make your reservation, the more likely your wishes are likely to be met.
After your stay, it is strongly recommended that you write a review of where you stay, and whether your view was positive or negative, write about the security of the location to aid future travelers.
On cruise ships
Generally, cruise ships are very safe. For the most part, there is nothing to fear. But sexual assault has occurred on cruise ships before and is likely to occur many more times in the future. It is still rare enough that these can be considered isolated incidents. Nevertheless, these cases are grounds to be concerned for your safety.
Cruise ships can be a very nice place to meet people, including those of the opposite sex who could one day be partners, or even if you are not looking for a romance, they could still be friends. Most people who go on cruises are decent people who are harmless. But there is no way to know just by looking at someone because good and bad people can externally look alike.
While on a cruise ship, it is necessary to take the following precautions: