Sexual Assault And Solo Travel

Sexual assault isn’t a topic I cover very often on my blog.  As our daughter continues to grow up, it’s a topic I do think about more.  My wife and I have taken our kids all over the world.  We want them to view the world as a smaller, more inclusive place.  It’s our belief that by spending time in other cultures they won’t view things such as race, religion or sexual origins as reasons to think less of someone.  At some point, my daughter will be old enough to travel on her own.  I’m a bit of a helicopter dad, always wanting to protect my kids from the dangers of the world.  There is a point in every parent’s life where that just isn’t possible any longer.

Talking About Sexual Assault

I read a great number of blogs on a daily basis.  Jessie on a Journey is published by a woman who may not post as often as some of the bloggers in the travel space.  However, she covers subjects that interest me from time to time, so I’m always curious when one of her posts pops up in my feed.  Jessie recently talked about sexual assault on her blog.  She shared some personal (scary) experiences that she had while traveling.

I’ve never been the victim of sexual assault.  Even though sexual assault can happen to anyone (man or woman), my sense is that it happens much more frequently to women than men.  I have not researched statistical evidence of this, though I imagine the numbers would frighten me.

The Final Two Pennies

I can’t say for certain I’d feel the same way about Jessie’s post if I didn’t have a daughter.  I’d like to think I would.  But, I think that’s immaterial to the reason I’m writing about her post today.  Sexual assault is a very real thing that has lasting implications, scars that the casual observer can’t see.  It’s something no human has the right to do to another human.

On top of sharing her own harrowing experiences, Jessie lays out some resources for people who are a victim of sexual assault.  If you think you have nowhere to turn, you’re wrong.  There’s always someone there willing to help you.

If I were to sum up my two pennies today, it would be advice for my daughter when she leaves on that first solo trip without her family.  It’s easy to say, “Be Careful”.  There’s more than that.  It’s my job as a parent to make sure I teach you ways to be careful, to avoid situations where you might be in harm.  As well, it’s my job to make sure you know how to protect yourself if someone does try to harm you.  And, it’s my job to make sure you know that if you’re ever in the position that someone tries to harm you, it’s not your fault.  We’ve still got some time for me to make sure you have those tools.  But, time has a way of slipping away from us.  Jessie’s post is a reminder that I’ve got more work to do.

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About the Author

My goal in life is to fill my family’s passports with stamps, creating buckets of memories along the way. You’ll find me writing about realistic ways for normal people to travel the world, whether you’re on a budget or enjoy luxury. I also enjoy taking us on the occasional detour to explore the inner workings of the travel industry.

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7 Comments

  1. Probably your best course is to stop being a helicopter dad, and start developing in your daughter a sense of independence and the responsibility which goes with that. If someone is never exposed to difficult situations, he or she will have no tools to deal with very difficult situations. There will be no antennae twitching when things start to take a turn for the worse.

    I believe it’s vital to instill in a child a sense of when caution is required, and how to extricate from that situation. Whether it’s side-stepping peer pressure at school to do something you don’t want to do, avoiding bad bits of town, or how to act in bad bits of town, to having the tools to de-escalate situations, or side-step those situations, it’s all part of life skills.

    Sadly, it’s not possible to avoid unprovoked and random violent assault, but so many of these crimes are not random: they develop out of a situation that becomes out of control. Teach a child how to deal with that, and you have set him or her up for life.

  2. I recently read about the Grace Millane story and it just goes to show it can happen anywhere — even in relatively safe countries while travelling.
    Kudos to you for having the energy to be a helicopter dad. I know for me, after I come home from work I’m just tired and just want to relax. lol.

    1. Joey, I’m pretty exhausted too. But, since my wife is a solo parent while I’m gone I feel like I need to carry the weight when I do get home. As a parent, I’m sure you do your best and hope it’ll be good enough!

  3. I am a female who has been traveling solo for about 15 years now and one thing I really appreciated in my dad but didn’t realize it until much later was that he always remained calm when I would tell him about things that happened when I traveled. I have never been physically assaulted while traveling(and pray I never am), but certainly verbal abuse and very uncomfortable situations abounded.
    I remember phoning my dad about one and he remained calm, talked me through it, asked me how I handled it. He commended me for being level headed and thinking and encouraged me to use my gut instinct. What did not know until after he passed was that after he was off the phone with me, he called one of his friends and talked about how he had to get on a plane and make sure I was ok. He did this many times and his friend always talked him down.
    I know now that he didn’t want me to feel powerless and like I couldn’t handle things. I wonder how difficult this must have been for him as former special forces military man used to dropped in and helped people in dangerous situations.
    There are things that I simply won’t do as a single, female traveler and that sucks. I don’t drink, won’t take up strangers’ offers to show me a cool restaurant or interesting local attraction. I wear a wedding ring despite not being married and I have often gotten out of a bad situation by saying that I had to meet my husband(that really works quite a bit).
    I guess what I am saying is being an interested parent who talks through different scenarios with all your children(male and female) as well as coping mechanisms. Be worried but don’t let that lead to your daughter feeling like she is incapable. You travel with your children a lot and there are ways of empowering them now. Have them do research, check you into the hotel, buy the train tickets, get you on the correct platform etc. They will screw up, but they will learn.
    My father raised two women who now have logged many countries solo and are very grateful of trust he put into us. That made the biggest difference.

    1. Beth, this is a fabulous story. As a dad, I’m sure I’ll always be worried. I hope I can follow in the footsteps of your father and provide the sort of support my daughter needs to be a successful world traveler.

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