Female travel: tips to handle an assault
When travelling, females need to stay protected. In October, Girls LOVE Travel, a closed Facebook group with more than 450,000 members, posted nearly 1,000 comments under #gltmetoo. When GLT founder Haley Woods asked members to share their stories with a reporter, 75 messages appeared over a 24-hour period. Among the respondents were Mariellen Ward, who was riding in a cycle rickshaw in Old Delhi when a man grabbed her breast; Lindsay Wilde, who discovered a touchy-feely host in her bed during a couchsurfing stay in Lucerne, Switzerland; and Brittany, who spoke on the condition of using only her first name. She was on a trip to London with her grandmother when a shopkeeper's son molested her.
"It is a woman's right to free movement, to travel, to explore, to enjoy public spaces, to ride public transportation without experiencing the fear of violence," said Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN Women, the international agency devoted to gender equality and empowering women.
Women should do the following:
In an assault:
Puri urges women who find themselves in threatening situations to remember their WEALTH, a mnemonic device for assessing danger. W is for weapon: (Does he have one or do you?); E is for escape: (Is there an exit route?); A is for accomplices and allies: (Who are his and yours?); L is for language: (Can you detect body language, too?); T is for terrain: (What is the landscape?); and H is for hands: (Where are his and what is in them?). Develop a game plan based on the answers.
In most scenarios, Puri recommends active resistance, such as shouting, running and performing self-defense moves. If that approach fails, she said, switch to passive resistance such as soiling yourself, claiming to have a sexually transmitted disease or explaining that you are married or religious. If the predator is unmoved, carrying a weapon and threatening your life, she advises retreating into a state of non-resistance.
"Your objective is to survive," she said. In cases of harassment on public transportation, experts encourage women to make a scene. "Make your objections known, even if the act might be unintentional. Even a loud 'excuse me' will bring attention to the inappropriate behavior," Puri said. "Look to strangers for help."
After a man in a car followed Jessica May Matheson in Changwon, South Korea, the GLT-er realised the importance of language skills. "I'm making sure of knowing how to yell 'help' in whatever language in whichever country I am in," she said, "as well as knowing the laws about sexual assault and rape, so then I can know if that country would even be willing to help me."
Sara Ellis, a lawyer in Nashville, was nervous about confronting her tour guide in Peru lest he sabotage her trip. However, on her last night, she shared her alarming experience with the owner of the lodge. He took immediate action, taking the employee aside and eventually firing him.
"It was empowering to feel heard and to know that speaking up caused the situation to be resolved and hopefully prevent it from happening to someone else," she said.
After an assault:
If you have suffered a sexual assault, first and foremost, seek safety. Then start making calls. To preserve evidence of the attack, refrain from brushing your teeth and bathing until you have sought professional help. If you wish to remove your clothes, place them in a paper bag, not a plastic one. Document the incident with notes and pictures, including images of your wounds and the scene of the attack. At the hospital, ask for a rape kit, and HIV and STD tests. Retain copies of the medical reports and test results. Depending on the country, you may or may not want to inform the authorities of the incident.
"If someone has been attacked or encountered problems, yes, the police should be informed," said Dan Wick, a volunteer State Department warden in Cartagena, Colombia. "However, they may not take the action desired and downplay the incident. More and more, the police are being more sensitive and responsive to tourists, but not always."
Lucas knows of several Americans who followed their cases to courthouses in Italy and Morocco. The women are no longer victims; they are survivors - and victors.- The Washington Post