Female Travel & Sexual Assault: Opening the Conversation

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A couple of months ago, I shared some of my difficult experiences with sexual assault and traveling with you.

It was hard for me to write, but the support I received from all of you in this community reminded me of how important it is to discuss these issues. Traveling can be scary, and scary things can and do happen both at home and abroad. But I will never stop traveling, and I will always encourage women to get out and explore the world.

Yesterday, I took the plunge and shared my story on Huffington Post Travel. Doing so was terrifying. The days before it went live, I went back and forth on whether or not to just delete it all, dreading the barrage of ridiculous comments I knew would come.

And come they did. Some of the most ridiculous were things like:

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Which is statistically not true at all. 

And things like:

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Which I don’t even really understand (the gay 90s?) And:

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Ummm….

Now, I have some pretty thick skin. Most of these comments I shrugged off as whatevs (haters gon’ hate), but when the overall thread is: stop traveling– I have a big issue.

Is this really where we are as a society? After Sarai Sierra was murdered in Turkey, the internet exploded in a discussion about solo female travel and safety… didn’t we already cover this ground? Haven’t we proved that travel is vital to personal growth and self discovery for both sexes? Are we really still here?

Traveling has given me so many beautiful strengths.

Though some of those experiences have been less than stellar, I would never throw in the towel and stop traveling altogether. The good has always far outweighed the bad for me.

Go! Girl Guides was created to help inspire and empower women to travel the world. Yes, there are risks in going abroad, but there are also risks in going to your local grocery store. Our guidebooks are tools to help reduce those risks, but things can and do still happen.

When my initial post on this site went live, I was floored by the amount of comments, emails and tweets I received from women who had similar experiences. It’s not a pleasant topic, and it gets swept under the rug too often because it happens abroad. I hope by speaking out, others feel comfortable and encouraged to do the same.

Mostly, I’m saddened that other members of our society are still in the mindset that women shouldn’t travel. I guess in a way it’s reaffirmation of the importance of our latest project, the Women’s Travel Fest, where we will bring together 400 women to talk openly and honestly about all aspects of women’s travel, including health and safety.

We can support one another by sharing. By sparking dialogue and raising awareness. By continuing to travel.

Awareness spreads. Add to the dialogue.

What have your experiences traveling (solo or otherwise) been like? How can we support one another & encourage travel? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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About Author

Kelly Lewis is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, Go! Girl Adventures and creator of the Women's Travel Festival. She loves traveling and aims to inspire and empower women of all ages to get out there!

6 Comments

  1. Good for you! That was very brave and it sucks that you got that sort of reaction. Internet commenters and be some of the most ridiculous and hateful people- it’s really stunning. It’s also a way to put off acknowledging real problems: after all sexual assault is incredibly common within US borders as well. It’s a sad way to distract from a difficult discussion.

  2. I’m glad you wrote that on Huffington Post. People are going to say stupid stuff because they can now…as they are cloaked by the internet. There are people that still believe women should not travel alone. But then there are always people that need to say stupid and hateful things. It happens in every genre…try having a skydiving accident and see what people say.

  3. Hi Kelly and thank you for raising safety awareness.

    As a female solo traveler and a womens self defense instructor I’d like to share a safety tip of my own which I hope your female readers will read, remember, and share with many other women and girls far and wide.

    I have been teaching Krav Maga to women and girls for over 5 years and we teach a very effective technique which I feel should should be in every woman and girls arsenal. We are a women only event, run by women, for women, and there is an extremely effective technique what we teach to women of all ages, which I feel we should all share as far and wide as possible.

    The technique is the “groin grab” self defense technique which is to be used against a male attacker, which is now taught in many womens self defense classes, and there is actually a little trick to it…

    To execute this technique, you’re going to take your hand and quickly grasp between the attackers thighs underhand. Its going to feel like you’re “cradling” the testicles. Quickly grab hold of, or snatch the testicles and dig your fingertips into the fragile skin BEHIND the scrotum. Then, once you have a good grip, you turn your hand into a vice, with your fingers digging inwards, around the back and over the top of the testicles. If you do it right, you should feel the testes INSIDE your hand which is holding the scrotum. You want, whenever possible, to hook your fingers over and around at least one testicle. One of them is enough.

    Then, with your hands in a claw and your fingertips latched around the testes, you turn your hand sharply, as though you were turning a doorknob. Simultaneously, squeeze hard and pull the testicles away from his body as fast and as hard as you can. DO NOT LET GO OF THEM. This is very important. What happens then, is that your assailant usually screams out in pain and then tries to grab the wrist of your hand holding him in a futile attempt to try to get you to release him. DON’T. He then quickly loses one of the natural advantages he usually has over us (his strength) within a matter of seconds. Vomiting, curling over, collapsing and convulsing is common. Shock and unconsciousness can set in within 8 seconds. If he initially starts to fight back then you tuck your head in and keep squeezing his testicles until he faints. This only takes a matter of seconds. When he collapses, which he will, you get away to safety as quickly as possible and call for help.

    It’s never too late to perform this technique at any stage of an attack, and that even includes the option of reaching down if he’s on top of you, but it is easiest to do when the testicles are exposed and closest to you where you can grab hold of them. I’ve actually met several women in my life who have fought off their attackers in this way and one did it when her attacker was on top of her and raping her at the point he lost control. Don’t ever hold back. Some women scream while they are doing this, and some women think of a loved one being harmed to help overcome any bad feelings of hurting someone else even if they are being hurt themselves. Do whatever you have to do if you feel it helps.

    If done properly, and done with enough force, this technique can even lead to the testicles rupturing. It’s actually easier to do than most women believe, and just about all of us have the capability to injure an attackers testicles in this way – whether we are young girls still of school age, or whether we are great grandmothers. We, as women have no part of our bodies as vulnerable as a mans testicles. After all, if you think about it testicles are just small objects of extreme vulnerability to pain squishiness wrapped in a delicate layer of skin which offers them no protection at all from this kind of counterattack by a woman. Most importantly, this fact holds true no matter what size your attacker is, nor how strong he is. And no matter how angry he is, and how much he’s threatened what he’s going to do to you, he’s going to drop. Don’t let anyone (usually men who are very uncomfortable with thoughts of women beating them in combat) try to convince you otherwise.

    I once worked with a group of Somali women who informed me that grandmothers, mothers, and daughters between generations shared this powerful method of fighting off men. They even have a name for it in Somalia and they call the move “Qworegoys”. They were surprised that women in the West didn’t seem to share this information as much as they expected, and even more surprised that most women didn’t even seem aware of this technique.

    I know that this advice would have been a difficult read for many women, but our lives are worth far more than a rapists testicles and we should be prepared to do whatever it takes to get away to safety. Please help to share this advice with as many other women and girls in any way you can. It could one day be a life saver.

  4. Karli Grace Marshall on

    Kelly you are amazing, thank you for writing about this. I hope someday I can join this conversation with you, its time more people talk about their experiences.

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  6. Kelly – I know exactly what you went through, and after a few too many of mine own stories (I have been to 48 countries) I decided like you to do something about it. I have created a platform called JOZUforWomen.com and it is a travel portal created exclusively for women to help them travel better and safer. When we launch in January ’17, you’ll be able to create a free membership, search for vacations, and our AI, JENI will connect you with members who have been there and done that. You’ll get rewarded for helping other members with your authentic travel tales and be able to make a potential travel buddy. We feel this is the best way to democratise travel, with transparency. Women travel differently than men, and safety is a big concern, even if we are traveling with a male. We’re using the same biometrics that the Australian gov’t use to make sure that we keep the platform and community safe for women. There is safety in numbers AND Knowledge is power. I’d love to interview you for JAUNTE Magazine – our monthly travel mag on ITunes and Google Play for tablets.

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