It’s a sad truth that rape happens every single day. In England and Wales alone it is said that around 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped every single year. This equates to roughly 11 rapes per hour and that’s only including the statistics for adults (RapeCrisis,2015).
Rape is something that can happen to anyone, anywhere in the world. However, travellers and in particular solo female travellers are arguably a group highly susceptible to rape.
Many countries still have limited exposure or socially/politically influenced perceptions of foreigners/women and solo travellers can been seen as easy targets due to their unfamiliarity with their surroundings.
In order to prevent rape from happening it is important to change people’s understanding and perception of situations of rape and every single person who has ever experienced rape directly or indirectly has a role to play in making sure our world becomes a safer place.
The definition of rape differs across the world, but simply speaking it is sex that is not agreed to. It is an act of power performed by rapists and is always wrong.
Preventing rape from happening is often a matter of recognising and addressing situations that could allow rape to occur.
If you are the one travelling, remember that your own personal safety is always key.
- Be mindful of your location and company – Try to keep to well-lit areas with people and/or emergency services around. If you are travelling remotely, make sure to take a guide from a trusted source with you to keep you safe. New friends are great, but be aware of where you go and how you interact with them. Not everyone has the same view on behaviours and what is appropriate.
- Limit your consumption of mind-altering substances – Personally, I’m a strong advocate of staying drug and alcohol free in most situations, but the main point is to stick to a safe limit that won’t impair your ability to react to and in dangerous situations.
- Carry self protection – Whether that’s a sharp set of keys to weave through your fingers, pepper spray, a rape whistle or a safety app, being aware of and knowing how to react to a precarious situation will infinitely increase your chances of escape.
In cases where you recognise others to be in danger of rape, influencing the situation is critical. This could mean taking home a friend who has had too much to drink, explaining when a rape joke isn’t funny or getting security involved when someone is behaving aggressively.
Also keep in mind that rape is not exclusive to women, so keep an eye out for behaviour that is inappropriate towards men as well.
Rape can happen in the flash of an eye – with a stranger, or it can creep up on you with a familiar friend, family member or acquaintance you have known a long time.
That being the case it is always important to stay aware and assess any given situation in the context of that particular moment in time. If you are ever in the position where you feel unsafe or exposed, diffusing or deflecting from the situation could be key.
With a stranger this could mean using words to change the mood, or self defence skills and/or tools to protect yourself. With a friend or family member this could mean distracting the person long enough to seek help from someone you trust and/or rape prevention organisations or helplines who can help stop the situation from re-occurring.
If you come across someone else being raped – get help. Call a bouncer, police or emergency helpline for assistance. Do not, however, intervene in the situation yourself if by doing so you are putting your own safety at risk.
Irrespective of whether you have been raped or you know of someone being raped, make sure the occurrence is reported and publicised appropriately.
Unfortunately, too many incident go unreported due to the victim feeling shame or at fault in the situation.
If you ever find yourself supporting a rape victim after the incident, the most important actions to support the victim are as follows:
- DO NOT allow the victim to take a shower immediately after a rape – Soap and water remove necessary evidence to prove the crime.
- DO notify the authorities immediately to report the crime – The sooner the invesitation starts the better. Always have the number for the local authorities at hand.
- DO get the victim treated for infection and pregnancy – The early hours after the assault are crucial.
- DO give the unwashed clothes of the victim to the police – These can be used as evidence.
- DO get in touch with the victim’s parents/next of kin – Let them know what has happened. Trust needs to be rebuilt as soon as possible.
Victims of rape have been violated in the most intimate way possible. Rape not only has the power to destroy everything a person ever believed to be true about themselves, but it can also detrimentally affect their existing and new relationships with people for years to come.
In order to overcome rape a lot of attention needs to be given to overcoming the physical, emotional and mental damage rape can cause. In order to do so it is important to tie into the correct support network to be able to do so.
- Physically – Medical attention needs to be sought out as soon as possible to insure the right steps are taken to protect the victim from further harm (i.e. infection, pregnancy, injury etc.)
- Mentally – Being raped is a traumatising experience and as such it is important for there to be a strong network of people to help the victim through the event. This support can come from friends and family, but in many cases therapeutic help from a professional is advisable to avoid long term damage.
- Emotionally – Every single person will respond to rape differently. Some will be angry, some depressed, some guilty or shamed. All these feelings are appropriate, but the important thing is to gain support in dealing with these feelings in a constructive manner to allow healing to commence.
With the right support structure, rape victims can be helped and learn to regain trust, but without it the consequences can be truly devastating.
Useful links to organisations dealing with rape and sexual assault in the UK: