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close this bookPersonal Safety in Cross-Cultural Transition (Peace Corps)
close this folderUnit two: Rape and 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 rape and personal safety

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

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 normally may be very cautious and aware of personal safety may find they do not give adequate attention to it. This distraction may increase the risks too 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. We will be focusing on rape; however, the information gained from this session is applicable to other personal assault situations. 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 rape.

TOTAL TIME: 1 1/2 hours

- To increase participants' awareness of issues relating to rape and personal safety in the U.S. and in the host country.
- To develop an awareness of why rape is of concern for both male and female Volunteers.
- To begin to develop strategies, guidelines, and attitudes that may reduce the risk of personal assault.


1. Familiarize yourself with the Technical Guidelines for Overseas Medical Staff: Sexual Assault" developed by Medical Services provided as Attachment E to this unit.

2. Brief country staff or RPCVs on their roles and responsibilities during the optional step covering country-specific information.

3. Review the critical incident (handout 1).

4. Prepare a lecturette on facts about rape, which you can use in case trainees have little information to offer during the second activity.


1. Copies of the critical incident to be used.

2. Newsprint and markers.


Critical Incident (handout 1)
"Myths and Realities of Rape. (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 environments and social 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 will be staging, they may not be familiar 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.

Particular attention will be given to rape; however, the strategies developed during the session will be applicable to other personal safety situations.

1b. State that the overall goal for the session is to help them better understand the issues surrounding rape, their attitudes and feelings about rape, and to begin looking at how to reduce the risk or rape occurring in the host country.

1c. Read the prepared session goals.

TRAINERS' NOTE: It is important when setting the tone for this session that trainees' expectations match what will actually happen during the session. You may want to reiterate that this session does not give trainees a blueprint for preventing rape - rape may happen to any of us even if we take precautions. This session may evoke strong emotional reactions in trainees, especially if a trainee has had a personal experience with rape. You can tell trainees that you or some other staff member will be available to discuss this with individuals after the session. Stress that this is only a beginning session to increase their awareness and understanding of rape. There will be more country-specific information provided in-country during the PST.

Information Sharing on Rape

[10 min]

2a. In large group ask for a show of hands of people who have worked with assault victims, crisis counseling, battered women, etc. If any hands are raised, ask them to serve as resources during this session and divide themselves among the smaller groups.

2b. In large group ask the trainees to briefly share what they know about rape.

TRAINERS' NOTE: This is an opportunity for trainees to share what information they already possess. It should address who gets raped, where, why, and the two types of rape: stranger rape and social acquaintance rape. If there is no shared knowledge the trainer should be prepared to provide this information in a short lecturette (see Attachment E).

2c. Summarize their discussion and acknowledge the amount of information they have. Distribute handout 2 and give participants an opportunity to review it; use this handout to dispel any of the myths which may have been mentioned in the previous discussion.

Personal Attitudes and Feelings

3a. Make a transition from the intellectual knowledge they possess to their personal attitudes and feelings.

[5-10 min]

3b. Divide the large group into small groups of five or six (men and women separate). Ask the group to list their personal attitudes and feelings about rape. Each group should select the five strongest attitudes/ feelings to share with the large group, have each group select a reporter for their group and write their five attitudes/feelings on newsprint.

3c. Bring the groups back together and have the reporters for each group share their five strongest attitudes/feelings. Identify three or four common attitudes/feelings and ask if there were any surprises as they were doing this exercise.

[5-10 min]

TRAINERS' NOTE: Separating the groups by sexes gives the trainees an opportunity to share their feelings in a safer setting before they are shared with the large group. There may be some clear differences in the way the two groups deal with the task. If this occurs you may want to point that out to the group.

3d. Now that they have had an opportunity to share some of their attitudes and feelings, ask the trainees to discuss the following question:

Why is rape an issue/concern for men and women? How does it affect both of them?

TRAINERS' NOTE: It is important for the trainees to see that both men and women can be victims of an assault. Likewise, they need to recognize that men, as well as women, play an active role in supporting victims. It is equally important that trainees begin to look at how their behavior toward the opposite sex can be interpreted within a new culture.

Strategies for Dealing with Rape

4a. Break the group into small groups of five or six (mixed male and female). Explain that they will now have the opportunity to llok at guidelines/strategies that could reduce the risk of a rape occurring.

[30 min]

4b. Distribute and ask trainees to read the critical incident and discuss the guidelines they would offer. They should put these guidelines on a flipchart and be prepared to share with the larger group.

4c. Bring groups together and have them report on their guidelines. Note any similarities and differences.

TRAINERS' NOTE: It is more than likely that the guidelines generated by the trainees will be general safety precautions which apply equally to situations other than rape. You should acknowledge this and help them to see the importance of protecting themselves from being a target of any type of assault.

4d. Lead a discussion on the following:
- "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?"

4e. Stress that just as they may not want people coming to this country to think that they should mistrust everyone and lock themselves in their houses, 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.

What About In-Country

5a. Have the country staff briefly discuss any information pertaining to rape and other personal safety issues in their country. They should explain that more specifics and training will be given during their PST.

[10 min]

TRAINERS' 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 trainees. It should also stress that this issue will be dealt with again in country.

5b. Explain that even if we take precautions rape may still occur. Ask the trainees to brainstorm about what information or help would be needed by a rape victim and what information they would want.

[5 min]

TRAINERS' NOTE: Record this information on a flipchart. Samples might include emotional and physical support.

5c. Draw the trainees' attention to the fact that if they were assaulted in the U.S. they would most likely know who to contact, to whom they could turn for support and medical help. When entering a new culture, they may need to establish some networks and find out new information for dealing with the situation.

Ask the trainees to look at the list of information and help needed and identify what they will need to follow up on when they arrive in the host country.

Trainees should write this information down in their journals or notebooks so they can return to it during pre-service training.


[5 min]

6. For closure, ask participants to generalize about the session; ask individuals what information they learned during this session, and how they plan to apply it when entering their host country.

Bring closure by referring back to goals to check for goal attainment. Make linkages to next session.

TRAINERS' 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.