8 Things To Be Aware Of When it Comes to SEXUAL ASSAULT ABROAD

I want to start off by saying this; I used to think sexual assault only came in the form of rape, and rape only came in the form of being approached by a questionable looking, middle-aged man pushing you to the ground while you kick and scream. I think this is still the common way rape is seen and that´s why victim blaming still happens a lot. People think they´d never accuse someone of their own rape, while in fact people do it all the time. Even in the case of ally rape, the first thing people ask is “Why was she there?¨. In all the other cases people say “Why didn´t you just say no?¨, as if that has ever worked.

Sexual assault happens more than you think and in many cases it is not late at night in an empty park by a stranger. It´s in a place you know, with someone you know. Sexual assault isn´t always being forced to do something you don´t like, it´s also being tricked into doing something you don´t want. I am a confident woman. I know what I want and what I don´t want. Still it happened to me, and the fact that I was abroad made it harder to realize.

#1 Know your environment

This might be more of a general safety tip, and quite an obvious one for that matter, but when you are abroad and everything is new, it´s good to do some research (ask around) about which places are safe to visit, and which places aren´t. Is there public transport at night to get back after a night out?

Also, although this is never an excuse for people to harass you, find out what is appropriate and what not when it comes to the way you dress. Some countries might be a little bit more conservative than you think, and your outfit could be interpreted in a different way while being in a different culture. Again, this is never an excuse, but it´s something to be aware of.

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#2 No should mean no, but it usually doesn´t

It pains me to say this but it´s true. So many times I thought saying “No¨ would be enough, but sadly it´s not. When I don´t like something I tend to start laughing because I am uncomfortable, which means my “No¨ is taken less serious. But even if I don´t laugh, a lot of people will take anything as a sign that you are into it. With this I mean “She is saying no, but she is still here so she probably wants me to keep asking¨.

So when someone does something to you that you don´t like; don´t just say ‘no’ but walk away. It might seem strange sometimes, but this is actually the best way to let someone know you are not interested. 

Also, bonus tip; speaking a language people don´t know is also a quick way to shut down communication. Just keep on rambling in your native language and you have no idea how freaked out people can get!

#3 Don´t let a cultural difference guide you into doing anything you are not comfortable with

Yes, getting culturally adjusted isn´t always comfortable, but when it comes to sexuality don´t let yourself be in any situations you are not comfortable with. In some countries, people might be more touchy than you are used to, but if you are not comfortable with someone doing this, let them know. 

The same counts for things such as drugs, alcohol or anything else. Yes, it´s good to get adjusted, but just because everyone else does it doesn´t mean you have to. If you don´t want to do something, don´t do it. It´s your body, your rules.

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#4 CONSENT. If you have to be convinced, it´s probably not the way to go

This goes both ways. If you have to talk someone into being with you, just leave them alone. They are most likely going to regret it, so don´t be that person. Instead, put your time into finding someone who actually wants to be with you.

From the other side, if your gut tells you it probably isn´t a good idea; leave. Usually, I would say “we only regret the chances we didn´t take¨, but in this case (especially with the involvement of alcohol) it´s the opposite. Trust your got, and most of all, go back to #2, and just walk away. 

This whole idea of consent might seem very easy, but you´d be surprised how often this goes wrong. If you are interested, here is an amazing video explaining consent by comparing it to a cup of tea.

 

#5 Just because you know someone doesn´t mean they always have your best interest

But the fact that 82% of all sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger says more than enough. If it´s a real family member, no is always the answer, but what if it´s someone from your host family? What if it´s a friend?

In my case it was a guy I knew. I trusted him, I liked him as a friend, but didn´t want anything else. Neither did he, he kept saying. But somehow he kept hinting at it, followed shortly by saying that it was just joking. The more intoxicated we became, the more the nagging started (Yes, nagging is not only for women). Ultimately, I gave in because I was getting tired of it. It was stupid, but I was intoxicated and most of all; I trusted him. I thought if it was his idea, it couldn´t be harmful. After all, he was my friend. Maybe I was just being paranoid by all the sexual assault stories.

That was one of my biggest wake-up calls. The actions of that night were not all that traumatizing, but how it happened was. I couldn´t, and still can´t, understand how someone I trusted could try to trick me into something he knew I didn´t want to do. The worst part is that he didn´t even feel bad after. He said I made a big deal out of it. Now there will be people telling me it was my fault, I should have said no anyway. Other people tell me to stop being so paranoid, that not all men are predators. And they are right, not all men are. But deep down I knew I didn´t want it, and I should have listened to my gut. 

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#6 Stereotypes might actually be harmful

Most of the times stereotypes are just annoying, but when it comes to girls and sexuality for many countries there are awful stereotypes of promiscuous latinas women or easy ‘white girls´. Be aware of this, and be aware of the fact that because you are foreign you might be very interesting for a lot of people. This isn´t always a bad thing, in many cases you just get to meet new awesome people, but in some cases, as mentioned above, people might not have your best interest at heart and being with someone who is foreign is just a fun ´challenge´ or some sort of fetish (yes, this happens).

#7 Take care of your drink

These things might be obvious, but they are still important to say so I will. Look after your drink, make sure nobody can put anything in it. Depending on how well you know the people you are going out with, buy your own drinks too.
It´s just the easiest way to avoid a lot of false expectations and bad situations.

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#8 Have a friend

Maybe one of the better tips, but have a friend to look out for you, and look out for your friends. If someone is bothering you, let your friend know in some secret code language, and they can help you out of an awkward situation.

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Now, this all might sound a little ominous, but it certainly shouldn´t be. Being abroad is fun, dating abroad is even more fun! But being new in a place brings a certain vulnerability. This post is to make you aware of those vulnerabilities, and to tell you that it´s your body and your rules! I hope you learn something from this and that you have bucket loads of fun abroad.

Stay safe!

 

Ps. If there is anything I should add, please let me know in the comments!

 

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