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close this bookPersonal Safety in Cross-Cultural Transition (Peace Corps)
close this folderHandouts for pre-departure design on rape and personal safety: Unit two
Open this folder and view contentsSession I
Open this folder and view contentsSession II

Handout 1: Critical incident

_______________ (name from host country) is participating in a program that sends students, for 6 months to 2 years, to study in the U.S. She/he has never been to the U.S. and is eagerly anticipating her/his stay in New York, where she/he will be studying.

You will be meeting ____________________________ the first week after her/his arrival and have been asked to brief her/him on living in New York. One of the issues you feel strongly about is safety and how to help settle into her/his new neighborhood.

Knowing that part of ___________________ purpose in coming to the U.S. is to learn more about the people and their culture and that she/he is very enthusiastic to meet and work with her/his new-found friends what advice would you give her/him concerning the following.









OTHER ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE __________________________________

Handout 2: Myths and realities of rape

(Extracted from Technical Guidelines for Overseas Medical Staff; developed by Medical Services)

In the United States, many of the attitudes and laws concerning rape are beginning to change from viewing the victim as somehow responsible to viewing this act as a crime. Medical care is also improving. However, most Americans have grown up with conscious or unconscious awareness of many common myths concerning rape. The more common of these, along with the facts based on U.S. statistics, are listed below:

- Myth - Sex is the primary motive for rape.

Fact - Studies show that the major motives for rape are aggression, anger, and hostility, not sex.

- Myth - Rape is an impulse act.

Fact - The majority of all rapes are planned - both the victim and the place.

- Myth - Rape usually occurs between perfect strangers.

Fact - Studies show that in most cases the assailant and the victim are acquaintances, if not friends and relatives. In many cases, the assailant has had prior dealings with the victim, for example, he may be an ax-boyfriend, a neighbor, a friend of a friend, maintenance man, or a co-worker.

- Myth - Women who are raped are asking for it. Any woman could prevent a rape if she really wanted to, since no woman can be raped against her will.

Fact - In about 87% of all rapes, the rapist either carried a weapon or threatened the victim with death. The primary reaction of almost all women to the attack is fear for their lives. Most women, even if not paralyzed by fear are physically unable to fight off a sexual assault. Submission does not imply a desire to be assaulted.

- Myth - Only young, good-looking girls get raped.

Fact - The average age of victims is between 19 and 26 years old. However, victims have ranged in age from 6 months to 97 years.

- Myth - Mode of dress, such as short skirts, no bra etc. increase a woman's chance of being raped.

Fact - Any woman regardless of dress, age or attractiveness may become a rape victim. Rapists are not out for sexual gratification and most are not sexually aroused at the time of the assault.

- Myth - Rape cannot happen to me.

Fact- Rape can happen to all women, regardless of age, social class, race or personal appearance.

It is important to be aware of these myths and the facts because most Volunteers will have to resolve these attitudes in dealing with themselves, or others, as victims.

Each country carries its own cultural attitudes about rape. It is crucial that both the Medical Officer and any other staff who might deal with the rape victim be aware of both the myths and the realities of their own culture. These include views about "Western woman", such as "all Western women are promiscuous" or "Western women come to our culture because they want to make love with us". These cultural myths are powerful, but equally so is the old medical myth that a healthy adult woman cannot be forcibly raped with full penetration of the vagina unless she actively cooperates. This myth does not consider the emotional reactions, such as fear and panic, or logical reactions, such as submissiveness, to protect life. The use of weapons, fist, or threats by the offender are not acknowledged in the myth. Each Peace Corps Volunteer rape victim has reported the fear of being killed at the time of assault. This is the primary reality to keep in mind when preparing to treat a victim of sexual assault. She has just experienced a terrifying sense of helplessness with thoughts of losing her life.

Motivations for Sexual Violence. To appreciate what the victim experiences, the probable motivations of the offender must be understood. The rapist is commonly portrayed as a lustful man who is the victim of a provocative woman, or he is seen as a sexually frustrated man reacting under the pressure of his pent-up needs, or he is thought to be a demented sex fiend harboring insatiable and perverted desires. The misconception common to these views is that they all assume the offender's behavior is primarily motivated by sexual desire, and that rape is directed toward gratifying only this sexual need. To the contrary, clinical studies of offenders in the United Stated reveal that rape serves primarily non-sexual needs. It is the sexual expression of power and anger. Forcible sexual assault is motivated more by retaliatory and compensatory motives than by sexual ones. Thus, "rape is a pseudosexual act, complex and multidetermined, but addressing issues of hostility (anger) and control (power) more than passion (sexuality)."

Handout 1: Volunteers' advice to new volunteers

This information was generated by Kenyan Volunteers during a session on personal safety. Although some of this information is specific to Kenya, much of it can be useful to all Volunteers.

Advice Exchanged Among PCVs:

There was a feeling of concern for one anther's welfare and a lively exchange of information and suggested coping mechanisms for dealing with the problems of housing, theft, assault, special male/female issues, etc. Advice to new PCVs comingled with recommendations to those who had been in-country for some time.

- Don't take for granted that people are friendly and can be trusted

- be wary of new acquaintances here just as you would be in the U.S.

- be wary of people who rush to approach you or shower you with compliments

- Take your time

- establish relationships slowly

- don't feel you must be liked by every Kenyan

- Get to know people in your village or area who can identify safe and "bad" areas and who will support you

- may not be supervisor or other Kenyan teachers

- usually can trust farmers, students, headmasters, mamas

- Don't bring unnecessary items which can be stolen

- Don't flaunt possessions

- Don't place articles near window where they can be "hooked"

- Don't be obvious about leaving

- Do be obvious about locking doors - always lock

- Employ askari or get a dog

- Hire a house-sitter or lock possessions in a safe place

- Ask neighbors to watch house

- COS is a time when Volunteers get ripped off

- suggest you give a later COS date to the public

- Don't lend money

- Don't dress and act like a tourist

- Remember dress code varies from area to area

- tribal dress (and undress) is not acceptable for PCVs or even Kenyans outside that tribe

- women were told in the U.S. not to wear pants - this was true for teachers, but extension workers were thought to be stupid because they did not wear them for working in the field and riding cycles.

- Don't open the door at night to anyone you don't know well

- Don't let male counterparts in your house at night under any circumstances if you are a woman

- Don't be promiscuous at your site

- Avoid dark, unsafe places and walking alone. Consider carrying a weapon at night.

- Beware of people bumping or pushing you

- Be aware of tactics used by cons, money changers, "scams"

- Avoid crowded buses if possible

- Don't go out in the city with only one other person or alone at night

- Carrying excess baggage is an invitation to be ripped off

- Don't carry valuables, even in a pack

- If you must carry money, keep it close to body or concealed

- in front pocket

- in bag clutched in front of you

- in "boob-bag"

- if money is concealed, you might carry 5 shillings in a pocket so thief is not tempted to dig deeper

- carry correct money for bus, etc., in hand so as not to reveal money source

- Don't hitch-hike after dark - and be very careful hitchhiking at all times

- If you get caught away from home at night, don't travel alone; pay for lodging

- If you are victimized and decide to report to police, take someone with you as witness and advocate (especially if issue is sexual assault or rape)

Handout 2: Critical incident: Social/sexual pressure encountered by a male PCV relating to his community acceptance and identity

During PST, Joe learned that local bars were a good place to meet the local men and become known and accepted into the local community. The male trainers in Joe's training program said they often went to a local bar at night to socialize and to get local people interested in their Peace Corps projects. All the trainers encouraged this avenue for meeting local men; however, the female trainees were strongly discouraged because it was not generally acceptable to the local community for a woman to socialize at night in a bar.

Shortly after arriving at his post, Joe went to once of the more popular bars in his local town. At first, Joe felt a little uncomfortable in the bar, being new and not knowing anyone. After a couple of drinks, Joe relaxed and found himself engaged in conversation with a couple of other men.

As the evening progressed, drinks were exchanged and Joe felt that he was doing fine on his first visit to a local bar. At the end of the evening, Joe sensed that he had made a good start toward gaining the friendship of the men with whom he had been drinking. As Joe was saying good night, he noticed that the men quickly conferred among themselves, and then one of them asked if he wanted a woman for the night. Joe was a little surprised but, since he was not interested, declined. The men pressed him several times, saying he must want a woman. Joe was feeling a bit embarrassed but really did not want to accept their offer. Finally, one of the men relieved the situation by saying Joe must be really tired; could he meet them the next night? Joe said yes, and a hearty good night was said all around.

The next evening, Joe went again to the same bar and found his new friends waiting for him. Everyone enthusiastically received him Joe was very gratified by their open friendliness and was pleasantly surprised at his quick acceptance. Again, an evening of drinking and camaraderie was enjoyed by all. When Joe was ready to leave, the same offer as the evening before was made. One of the men was heard to say, "Tonight we'll find out what the American can do.. Joe was very uncomfortable and he felt the pressure mount. However, he really did not want to go down to the "red light district.. Joe tried to decline, but hear other comments ranging from "He's too shy" to "Do you think he's one of those?". Joe was feeling very anxious and very uncomfortable.

Handout 3: 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.

Handout 4: Common reactions to rape

(Extracted from Technical Guidelines for Overseas Medical Staff developed by Medical Services)

Coping Mechanisms During Rape. Burgess and Holstrom also have studied the victim's coping behavior at three points relative to the attack: during the early awareness of danger, during the attack itself, and after the attack. This ability to react often depends on the amount of time between the threat of attack and the attack, on the type of attack, and on the type of force or violence used. Initial strategies include verbal tactics, such as conversation, joking or screaming, and physical action, such as struggling, biting or kicking. If these fail, the coping task of the victim is to survive the rape despite the demands forced upon her such as oral, vaginal, and/or anal penetration.

Victims often cope during the rape itself by mentally distancing themselves from the reality of the event. Volunteers have described the whole range of internal defense mechanisms to cope psychologically with the fear produced by attack: denial ("This isn't happening to me.); disassociation ("I felt like I was at a movie watching it happen to someone else"); suppression ("This will be over in few minutes; it's not the end of the world.); rationalization ("This poor man, he looks desperate, is this the only way he knows to get sex?"). Not all coping behavior is voluntary and conscious. Some screaming and yelling is involuntary, and victims have also reported physiological responses of choking, gagging, nausea, vomiting, pain, urinating, hyperventilating, and losing consciousness.

The stressful situation is not over for the victim when the actual rape ends. She must alert others to her distress, escape from the assailant, or free herself from where she has been left, victims always are hopeful that someone will come to their aid, and they may spend time concentrating on how to obtain help. One Volunteers's fear and loneliness were heightened by the fact that passerby did not respond to her cries for help. However, after the attack when she was able to run to a group of workers, she was eventually able to convince them of her need for assistance.

By listening for the coping behaviors of the victim during the attack, the PCMO or other helper can have a therapeutic effect. Identifying the coping behavior tells the victim her behavior functioned as a positive adaptive mechanism to allow her to survive a life-threatening situation. This also helps alleviate some of the guilt suffered by victims who tend to think, "I did not do enough -- I could have done more." Affirming the coping behavior also reinforces a positive sense of self-esteem and worth. Appreciation of the fact that the victim has successfully managed to survive a life-threatening assault is a positive beginning to her long-term process of coping with the aftermath of rape.

Common Physical Reactions. Some physical reactions a woman may have in addition to the injuries she may have received are:

- General Soreness

- Loss of appetite

- Nightmares

- Tension headaches

- Gynecological and urinary tract problems

- Inability to sleep

- Nausea, stomach pains

- Waking up during the night and being unable to return to sleep

- Fatigue

Stages of Emotional Reaction. As noted above, the immediate physical and emotional reactions usually overlap the more long term reactions. The longer-term reactions may be classified into three distinct phases. An understanding of these phases has many implications for the treatment of Volunteer victims.

Phase I: Acute Reaction. The first step, lasting from a few hours to a week, is characterized by feelings of numbness, a state of shock, terror, disgust, a sense of powerlessness, and humiliation. The victim is seen in a disorganized, emotionally active state, weeping, distraught, unable to think clearly or the victim is emotionally constrained with only occasional signs of emotional pressure, such as inappopriate smiling or increased motor activity.

Initially, this turmoil of emotions may be too overwhelming for her to be able to single out, identify, or recognize. Instead, she feels numb, confused, and is unable to express her feelings clearly. Any apparently calm demeanor should not be mistaken for evidence that the rape did not occur or that she is unaffected by it. Other victims may handle these overwhelming emotions in other ways. They may be hysterical - crying, laughing, screaming. Laughter should not be taken as a sign of levity it is one reaction to severe anxiety. In these more vocal reactions, the victim may or may not be able to express her feelings clearly, but the emotions are closer to the surface.

Phase II: Outward Adjustment. This second stage, which begins about two weeks after the rape, involves an attempt by the victim to return to normal routines and place the rape in the past. This stage is often characterized by the victim not wanting to discuss the attack.

After the initial shock and chaos of the rape experience has subsided, the victim enters into a period of outward adjustment. At this time she has returned to work or school and is getting back to the normal routine of her life. She begins to resist talking about the rape, insists that it is in the past, and wants only to forget about it. Although this closure is premature, and all the feelings have not yet been expressed or understood, it is in part a healthy defense - a wish to return to normality.

Phase III: Integration and Resolution. This third stage may begin anywhere from one month to many years after the rape.

With appropriate support, the victim has found ways to integrate this trauma into her life experience. While, in general, she may have reached her pre-crisis level of functioning, she may have times of feeling again her old unresolved feelings about the rape. Sometimes her previous adjustment is shattered by a reminder of the rape - seeing the assailant in court or on the street, passing the scene of the crime. Unresolved feelings may recur following an unhappy life change such as a divorce, or several months or years of sleepless nights may finally cause the victim to decide to seek help. From their experience counseling rape victims, McCombie and Arans report that rape work, like grief work, takes approximately two years to complete, in the psychological sense of integration and resolution.

Handout 5: Assertiveness rights

(Taken from Management Review, August 1982)

Fundamental to a proper level of assertiveness is a belief in these basic rights:

1. Assertive people believe that individuals have the right to be treated with respect. They value others as well as themselves and desire fairness in interpersonal relationships. They feel that personal relationships are damaged when one tries to control others through guilt, hostility, or intimidation. Individuals who demean others also demean themselves; everyone loses as a result.

2. Assertive people think that individuals have the right to promote their dignity and self-respect, as long as the rights of others are not violated in the process.

3. Assertive people believe individuals are entitled to defend themselves. They consider that when people frequently subordinate or relinquish their rights, others take advantage of them. When individuals express their honest thoughts and feelings directly and appropriately, everyone benefits.

4. Assertive people encourage others to express their ideas. In fact, they believe that not letting others know one's thoughts is a form of selfishness, because personal relationships can only become truly meaningful when individuals openly share their ideas.

5. Assertive people believe that individuals have the right to express their feelings about how other's behavior affects them. By verbalizing how they perceive other people's behavior, assertive people let other know where they stand -- and give them opportunity to change. Not letting people know how one feels about their behavior is just as inconsiderate as not listening to their thoughts and feelings.

6. Assertive people consider that individuals have the right to make their needs known. When someone else feels downtrodden, put-upon, mistreated, or indignant, assertive people believe he or she has the right to attempt to rectify the situation and to seek personal satisfaction. By allowing others to acknowledge their own needs, assertive people feel good about themselves and gain self-respect, as well as that of others.

7. Assertive people think that individuals have the right to take sufficient time to consider complex problems, to ask for information, and to change their minds when necessary. They are receptive to new ways of thinking, and do not seek pat answers or magical gimmicks to solve perplexing problems.

8. Assertive people believe individuals have the right to choose whether or not to change their behavior to please others, and the right to say "no" without feeling guilty. They want to be liked by others but are not seriously upset if they are not.

9. Assertive people even believe that individuals have the right not to assert themselves at times. People are entitled to establish their own priorities, to make mistakes, to suffer the consequences, and to be the ultimate judges of their own actions.

The key to developing responsible assertive behavior is realizing and accepting these rights. Although rights have limitations and bring with them responsibilities, accepting assertive rights is crucial to the process of expanding human