Sexual assault can happen anywhere in the world
Consider investing in a self-defence course before going abroad.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Study a street map of your destination in advance. Avoid opening a map while out on the street – or do so as discreetly as possible – to avoid appearing lost or vulnerable. If you need to ask for directions, try to locate a police officer or the concierge of a nearby hotel.
Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t know or trust.
If you are being followed in an urban area, cross to the opposite side of the street and head for the nearest open business or occupied dwelling. If you are uncomfortable about walking back to your hotel, ask them to call a reputable taxi service.
If you are in danger, use any means necessary to draw attention to the situation, such as shouting for help in the local language or activating a personal security alarm that emits a piercing sound. It is advisable to learn some emergency words or phrases in the local language before you travel.
Never open your door to anyone without taking the necessary precautions to confirm the visitor’s identity.
Never accept car rides or hitchhike. Ask local hotels to recommend reputable taxis and, whenever possible, try to double up with someone you know when travelling by taxi. As a precaution, write down the taxi number or licence plate and if possible, text this information to family or friends.
Remain alert and descreet while in entertainment areas. Go with a group of friends. Arrive together, watch out for one another, and leave together.
Never leave your food or drinks unattended and never accept drinks from strangers. Watch your drinks as they are being prepared and served. They may be laced with hypnotic drugs that could put you at risk of robbery or sexual assault.
For further advice, see Physical assault.
If you are victim of sexual assault abroad
Take the following steps as soon as possible:
Contact the local authorities and file a police report immediately.
If you are unable to go to the police immediately, record all the details you can recall about the attack and the attacker. If possible, have photographs taken of your injuries.
In some countries, police authorities may be legally obliged to explicitly ask if you want the attacker prosecuted; consular officials may be able to guide you through this unfamiliar process.
Preserve evidence of the attack. Don’t bathe or brush your teeth until advised to do so by the local police or health officials.
Seek medical assistance. It is important to determine the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. See Sickness or injury for further advice.
Contact family and friends back home to reassure them about your well-being, especially if you have been unable to contact them due to the assault.
To help cope with the trauma, discuss the incident with family and friends or with a professional.
Report the assault to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or contact our Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
Canadian consular officials abroad can:
- provide you with contact information for local police and medical services
- help to identify professionals to provide support to deal with the emotional, medical, and legal consequences of the assault
- help you find support to deal with the emotional, medical, and legal consequences of the assault
- help you to contact relatives or friends
- provide you with information on how to apply for emergency financial assistance through the Department of Justice Victims Fund, which is administered by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues.
For information on the security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture of the country that you intend to travel, visit our Country travel advice and advisories.
If the offender is arrested
Depending on the local judicial system, legal proceedings may be prolonged and well beyond Canadian standards. You may require the services of a local lawyer. A list of local lawyers can be provided by the Canadian government office abroad.
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