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close this bookPersonal Safety in Cross-Cultural Transition (Peace Corps)
close this folderHandouts for pre-departure design on general personal safety: Unit one
close this folderSession II
View the documentHandout 1: Volunteers' advice to new volunteers
View the documentHandout 2: Critical incident: Possible sexual overtures by Host Country supervisor to female PCV
View the documentHandout 3: Critical incident: Social/sexual pressure encountered by a male PCV relating to his community acceptance and identity
View the documentHandout 4: Assertiveness rights

Handout 2: Critical incident: Possible sexual overtures by Host Country supervisor to female PCV

Julie was an agronomist assigned to work on an agricultural experimental research station. She had been at the research station for about six months and was getting along fine. She had identified and was starting some research trials on improved pasture grasses that could hold great promise for improving the local pastures of the farmers.

In undertaking the research program for improved grasses, she had received a lot of assistance and encouragement from her host country supervisor. Requests for field space, equipment, seeds, field labor, research texts, and the assignment of a co-worker had all been met. Julie was rally satisfied with her host country support. She had everything she basically needed to conduct quality field trials of the improved pasture seed she had identified.

Several times, her supervisor had taken her to lunches which lasted longer than her co-workers' lunch period. While Julie was grateful for the opportunity to build rapport and share ideas with her supervisor, she at times felt that she was being overly favored. This worried Julie for a couple of reasons. One, she wasn't sure how her other co-workers were feeling toward her and how they perceived the long lunches away from the office. And, two, although she had no real indications, she did wonder if her supervisor had any amorous inclinations toward her. Since her supervisor was married and had three kids, she decided not to be overly concerned or jump to any unfounded conclusions. Also, her supervisor was one of the few people who seemed to relate to her academic background and training. He enjoyed their luncheon conversations for the exchanges they had on cultural and social differences between the U.S. and his country. Overall, it seemed to be a fair exchange and fit the Peace Corps goals of cross-cultural interchange. Julie decided her worries were not worth stopping the luncheons. This seemed to be borne out in the next few months.

Julie and her supervisor had three more lunches together. The conversation topics of these lunches were basically the same as the others, although some comments were made about home life problems, including a less than satisfying traditional marriage about which Julie expressed some sympathy. Her supervisor seemed gratified that she could understand his problems and stated it was because of the difference between U.S. culture and his country's culture regarding women that she could understand.

As Julie's experimental trials progressed, she found that her supervisor found excuses to be with her more and more. This was making Julie somewhat ill at ease, as much for the favored-status before her co-workers as for any other overtones the increased attention might have.

To cut down on the amount of contact time, Julie found excuses for not accepting new lunch offers and kept her co-worker closely involved with her at most times. This seemed to work pretty well for keeping things on the safe side. Spending more time with her co-worker, she discovered that the all-male staff was making unfavorable, joking comments about her close relationship with the supervisor, such as "The American woman's belly must be growing by now". Julie didn't get publicly angry but told her coworker there was no truth in the suspicions of the others. She knew her comment would be fed back to those who were talking.

Julie realized that she was clearly on thin ice to maintain a professional image. She was wondering how to handle the situation. On the one hand, she did value the support and social time with her supervisor; however, on the other hand, she was afraid of an outright advance being made by her supervisor. To complicate things, the next month she and her supervisor were scheduled to go to a conference relating to her work. Julie was really wondering what to do.