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How to avoid sexual harassment when traveling solo

Intan Tanjung
Intan Tanjung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, July 24, 2016 | 01:59 pm
How to avoid sexual harassment when traveling solo

When it comes to visiting new destinations, travelers should avoid making assumptions and conduct thorough research about the country instead, especially gender customs, religion and even the country’s crime rate to get a complete picture of their destination country. (Shutterstock/-)

Heading out to travel on your own can be rewarding, but naturally it can feel daunting before you leave. When on the road, solo travelers can unknowingly become trapped in uncomfortable situations that may lead to sexual harassment.

Travelers may not have an awareness of their environment or local customs in a foreign country, so if traveling alone, it's important to stay alert and focus on your safety. We have compiled a list of tips to help you stay safe on your solo adventure.

Conduct thorough research before the trip

Do some research into the general attitude of men toward women in your destination country? How do women dress there? What do women do when they travel with a man? Travelers should look into this kind of information before they travel. When it comes to visiting new destinations, travelers should avoid making assumptions and conduct thorough research about the country instead, especially gender customs, religion and even the country’s crime rate to get a complete picture of their destination country.

Don’t respond to catcalls

In some countries, catcalls are considered normal, but reacting to them can trigger the anger of catcallers. Try to repress your hurt feelings for your own safety, and just walk past them. Avoid walking in a non-touristic area alone, and don’t even dare think about entering a ghetto, unless you’re accompanied by a colleague who is a local that you know very well.

(Read also: 11 essential tips for women traveling solo)

It happens everywhere

Think rape of tourists only happens in the Middle East, Asia or India? A quick search of the Internet will bring up many new links about rape cases in first-world countries including Korea, Australia,  Spain, London, and even one in New Zealand when the victim was at a park! There is even a high incidence of rape in countries like Sweden and Denmark, with 80-100  percent of people said to have been sexually assaulted, the highest rates in Europe. So what’s the lesson here? We may not know when we will encounter bad luck, but we can pay attention to what’s happening and trust our instinct if we feel something bad is about to happen. Going with your gut feeling is the safest bet.

Choose reputable accommodation

Yes it’s nice to have the authentic experience of staying with locals but spending the night at a reputable, officially registered place, will better ensure your safety.

Get a ‘safe cab’

Jot down the telephone numbers of reputable taxi operators and call them to pick you up instead of hailing a taxi from the sidewalk.

Say a bold ‘no!’

Often you’ll meet someone who will offer to do you a favor, such as taking you to a park or a rooftop with a great view, or even offer you a free room in his house. Don’t be afraid to boldly say ‘no’ and worry less about being unfriendly. Sometimes, sexual assault perpetrators think that by saying “yes” to their original offer, you are agreeing to “go further” with them, even if you are just trying to be friendly.  

(Read also: Tips for staying safe while traveling overseas this summer)

Don’t go to a second location

Most perpetrators take their victim to second location, where it is safer for them to commit assault. When someone asks to take you somewhere and you’re alone, don’t go and insist on staying in a public place.

Don’t share a bed with a stranger

With the rise of the sharing economy, more house and apartment owners are now opening their homes to tourists, and even their beds. Since you’ll be in the same room with a stranger, in a location you don’t know too well, it’s better to avoid such accommodation options and stay at a hostel instead.

Go to your embassy if something bad happens

Sometimes we run out of luck and bad things happen. Although you might be feeling lost, remember to go to your embassy first before filing a report with the police. Previous cases have shown that sometimes local police officers can’t be trusted. A Dutch tourist was convicted of adultery in Qatar after reporting a rape, and in France there was a case in which two members of an elite police unit allegedly raped a Canadian tourist. Since it’s hard to trust anyone in a foreign country, our suggestion is to trust someone from your own to get an insight about local laws. So, head to your embassy for protection and advice until you reach home safely. (kes)

 

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