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close this bookPersonal Safety in Cross-Cultural Transition (Peace Corps)
close this folderUnit one: General personal safety
View the documentSession I: Pre-departure design on rape and personal safety
Open this folder and view contentsSession II: In-country design on general personal safety

Session I: Pre-departure design on rape and personal safety

Behavioral Objectives

At the end of this session participants will be able to:

1. Recognize when someone is at risk of being victimized.

2. Identify and discuss five myths concerning rape.

3. Explain to others five common sense precautions that could reduce the risk of rape.

4. Accurately A) evaluate potential risky or problematic situations in their new host country, B) develop strategies for gathering more information pertaining to this topic, and C) note three possible ways of avoiding potentially dangerous situations.

RATIONALE: Personal safety is a subject which most of us have thought about and discussed with others. Trainees come from a variety of backgrounds and some are more aware than others of when and where their personal safety may be put in jeopardy. Many may not be as aware of the risks to their personal safety or of strategies for reducing these risks.

All trainees, regardless of their background in this area, will be entering a new culture and need to think about how they can take care of themselves both physically and emotionally. When entering a new environment trainees are suddenly engulfed by new sounds, sights, and ways of doing things. Even the smallest task, which in a familiar environment might be accomplished with minimal effort, becomes a major task, causing the trainee a good deal of frustration and anxiety. Under these conditions trainees who may normally be very cautious and aware of personal safety, may find they do not give adequate attention to it. This distraction may increase risks and place trainees in uncomfortable or harmful situations.

The purpose of this session is to help trainees with the process of increasing their awareness and building personal strategies for dealing with situations which may occur. Trainees will begin to look at safety situations during pre-departure training, traveling, and entering in-country training. It is important to note that we are not providing the trainees with a session on how to prevent an assault; there is no blueprint of how that can be done. Instead we are helping them recognize steps they can take which may reduce the chances of a personal assault.

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 15 min

- To increase participants' awareness of personal safety in the U. S. and the host country.
- To begin to develop strategies, guidelines, and attitudes that may reduce the risk

1. Familiarize yourself with handout 2
"Volunteers" Advice to New Volunteers"

2. Brief country staff or RPCVs on their roles and responsibilities during the optional step covering country-specific information (Step 4b).
3. Review the critical incident (handout 1).

1. Copies of the critical incident to be used.
2. Newsprint and markers.

Critical Incident (handout 1)
"Volunteers" Advice to New Volunteers.
(handout 2)


Opening Statement & Goals

[5 min]

1a. Remind trainees that they have been discussing "leavetaking" and entering a new culture. In part this involves learning how to take care of themselves in new social and work situations.

Literature shows that people are more vulnerable during periods of transition or in unfamiliar situations -- they are less attentive to normal precautions and are unsure of how best to protect themselves.

When trainees leave home and enter training they are embarking upon just such an experience; they do not know the city where they are staging, they may not be familiar with or comfortable in large airports, taxis, hotels, or living in a foreign country.

At the same time trainees usually have a strong desire to "fit in" and to be culturally sensitive. In fact, it is this desire which in part helps them to be effective Volunteers.

It is important, however, that Volunteers not carry this desire to an extreme, ignoring common-sense precautions and thereby making themselves more vulnerable.

During this session we will be looking at some safety situations which could occur and how to balance cultural sensitivity with common-sense precaution.

1b. Read prepared session goals.


[5-10 min]

2a. Mention that by virtue of living in the U. S. most of us are acutely aware of the risks we face on a daily basis. Ask them to quickly list the types of assaults they fear here in the U. S. Record their responses on newsprint.

TRAINER'S NOTE: You will be using this in Step 4a, so be sure they include verbal assault, theft, rip-off, con artist etc.

Ask them how their sense of safety has changed being in a new city for training. Do they feel less secure? Do they feel unsure of whom to trust? Or do they feel more secure?

2b. Explain that feeling a bit less secure in a new environment is natural. Most of us feel safer in our own home towns simply because we know our neighbors, we know which streets are "safe," we have our dogs, locks or home security systems and we know whom to call in case of an emergency. If they were to stay long enough in this city they would learn these same "cultural norms" of safe behavior. However, until they learn these norms they should be very aware of their environment and take precautions to reduce the likelihood of suffering a personal assault.


3a. Stress that there are obviously unpredictable or uncontrollable situations, i.e., unexplainable assaults, but there are precautions most of us can take to reduce the risks we face.

[30 min]

3b. Ask participants to break into two groups (more if the group is too large to work productively), and read and complete the critical incident. They should prepare their advice on newsprint.

3c. Have participants post and compare their advice. Point out similarities and differences; do not go into a lengthy discussion, as this will be done in Step 4c when the country staff representative discusses country-specific information.

3d. Lead a discussion on the following:

[10 min]

- "How did it feel to be giving someone advice on how to be safe in your country?"
- "How were they more at risk than you are?"
- "How much of this advice have you internalized and done unconsciously?"
- "What of this advice is appropriate for you while you are in staging?"


4a. Post the original list of types of assaults trainees fear in the U. S. Ask the following:

[15 min]

- "Which, if any, of these assaults do you think occur in the host country?"
- "Do you think you will be more or less secure in the host country? Why?"
- "How will the HCN image of Americans influence your personal safety?.
- "On what do you base this? "

4b. Have the country staff representative discuss briefly the problems or lack of problems Volunteers have experienced in-country.

TRAINER'S NOTE: This activity needs to be well prepared with the country staff and presented in a manner that does not offer horror stories or unnecessarily frighten the participants.

4c. Have the country staff representative review the advice given by participants and discuss what, if any, is appropriate for them in the host country.


[5-10 min]

5a. Stress that just as they may not want people coming to this country to think they should mistrust everyone and lock themselves in their house, you do not want them to feel unduly fearful or suspicious of their host country nationals. Instead you want them to recognize that, like here, there are good and bad situations and people that they should learn to recognize and avoid. This does not mean they should be culturally rude or insensitive; they need to learn how to balance precaution with cultural sensitivity.

5b. Ask them how they think they can learn to do this. Whom should they talk with when in-country?

5c. Close with any questions they may have and, if appropriate, explain what follow-up sessions there will be in-country.

5d. Distribute the handout 2 on Volunteers Advice to New Volunteers".

TRAINER'S NOTE: This information is offered to stimulate the participants' thinking about entering their new situation. Encourage them to anticipate their concerns when they enter their host country - how do HCN feel about security, what precautions do they take or not take, what have Volunteers found to be the best precautions, etc.