Section 3 Directory
HEALTH AND MEDICAL MATTERS
All students should verify with their (or their parents’) insurance company that the coverage is valid in another country. Being “valid” usually means that medical treatment you receive overseas is reimbursable, although you would need to pay for it up-front. Note: Students on the Allegheny plan are covered while studying off campus, but coverage is LIMITED!!!
Students may opt for additional travel insurance if they desire. Plans often include coverage for lost luggage, emergency medical evacuation, and trip interruption (for medical reasons). The Website www.insuremytrip.com allows you to search a variety of insurance plans to decide which is right for you. In addition, some plans are intended for student travelers and include discounts for airfare, entrance tickets, etc. The best-known student card is the International Student Identification Card (ISIC), which is available for purchase in the ID Center of Allegheny College (Bentley basement). For more information on what the ISIC offers, you can access the Website at www.statravel.com and follow the links.
The International Student ID Card (ISIC) can be purchased in Allegheny College’s ID Center (Bentley basement). It is not required for off-campus study and should be considered supplemental to major medical coverage. The ISIC is not acceptable as your only health insurance for study abroad.
Health Check for Travel
The following section is from a brochure written by Judith A. Green, Director of International Student Affairs, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University and Joan Elias Gore. This brochure was produced in coordination with NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
Make your medical conditions and medical needs known If you require regular medical care for any condition you have, tell those in your host country who can be of assistance. This may mean simply identifying a doctor or other practitioner who will provide you care. Or it could mean discussing your condition with people in your dormitory/house and classes if you may need emergency intervention during your stay.
Ask Questions Lifestyles may be very different from home. This is true even in cultures that seem relatively similar to the United States. Ask about safety issues such as local transportation, traffic patterns, swimming practices at regional beaches, and use of electrical appliances. Ask about security issues such as neighborhood or building security, personal security during evening or other outings, and culture-specific behavior or security concerns related to gender.
You can’t assume that the expectations and practices you took for granted at home will be accepted in your host country. If you are not sure about something, whether it’s a simple question about where a supermarket can be found, or a more complex matter, such as expectations about friendship and dating. Ask someone you trust.
Attend to your well-being Despite the change in your environment, you can still keep some of your daily routines from home. Get enough rest—a challenge during the few days of jet lag at the beginning. Eat nutritiously, which may mean trying some foods you’re not accustomed to. Get plenty of exercise to keep your mind and body working well. Don’t isolate yourself from others! You will probably have to make one of the first moves in developing friendships, but they are an essential part of any overseas experience and, more importantly, your emotional well-being.
Inform Yourself Remember that you are ultimately responsible for informing yourself about common ailments and diseases in your part of the world, whether shots are required for long-term visas, and for deciding whether or not to have vaccinations.
Check with Winslow Health Center for current inoculation regulations, or with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia (800-232-1311). Their website is at http://www.cdc.gov/travelImmunization requirements often change. Keep in mind that certain countries will require proof of up-to-date immunizations of certain diseases (such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, etc.) before granting residency permits. Take copies of these records in case they are needed.
Prescription Drugs If you require special prescription drugs such as medications for asthma or diabetes, it is best to take an adequate supply with you and know how to administer them. You should also carry a copy of the prescriptions, including the generic names for the drugs, and written instructions from your physician in case of emergency. If a medication is unusual or contains narcotics, carry a letter from your doctor attesting to your need to take the drug. If you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a certain drug into a country, consult the embassy or consulate of that country first. Pack medications in your carry-on luggage. It is appropriate to notify your on-site coordinator of any medications you are taking or any special health problems.
Glasses If you wear glasses or contact lenses, take along an extra pair and your lens prescription. You may also want to include enough contact lens solution for your time abroad since it may be difficult to obtain in certain countries and is often very expensive when available.
Illegal Drugs Violators will be apprehended if found using illegal drugs abroad and will be prosecuted subject to the laws of the country.
Alcohol Although not illegal, alcohol is considered a drug and we want you to be aware that there are side effects that can make you vulnerable. Please note that alcoholic drinks usually have more alcohol in other countries other than the U.S., i.e. beer has 2-2.5% of alcohol in the U.S., but close to 5-6% in another country. We expect you to be sensible with regard to your use of alcohol.
General Precautions in Less-Developed Countries
The following health precautions, taken from the U.S. Public Health Service Bulletin, are recommended for travelers in less-developed countries. Keep in mind that you will need time to adapt to differences in food, water, and climate.
- Drinking water and water for brushing teeth should be boiled or treated. Remember that ice is water. When it isn’t possible to boil your drinking water, we recommend that you purchase bottled water. Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly cooked, except for fruits that you can wash and peel. Wash your hands often to avoid spreading germs. Milk should be pasteurized or boiled. Avoid eating locally prepared dairy products such as cottage cheese and ice cream that may not have been pasteurized.
Have on hand the names of physicians and the addresses of hospitals in the area in case of emergency. Devise a plan of what to do in case of a medical emergency. It’s a good idea to give a copy of any pertinent medical information to someone on site that you trust (e.g., info about allergies, prescription drugs).
Travel Safe: AIDS and International Travel
What is AIDS? AIDS, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is a viral disease that breaks down the body’s immune system and leads to infections and cancers that may be fatal.
The AIDS Virus Can Be Transmitted in Four General Ways: 1) Through intimate sexual contact, 2)through infected blood and blood products, 3) through contaminated needles or other skin piercing instrument, 4) from an infected mother to her infant. The AIDS virus is not transmitted through casual contact.
Why a special concern for the traveler? When traveling abroad, be aware that some countries may require HIV antibody tests, a test for antibodies to HIV that causes AIDS. Travelers should also know that some countries may not have the resources to adequately screen blood or provide sterile needles.
If you are HIV positive: For those traveling abroad who are HIV positive, contact the consulate or the embassy of the country(ies) you plan to visit. Each country may have specific entry requirements, or requirements regarding carrying medicines, that you should know about before you leave.
The risk of getting AIDS depends upon you. Here are some general precautions against AIDS you can follow regardless of where you are in the world:
- Avoid exchange of semen, blood, or vaginal fluids with anyone. Either abstain from sexual activity entirely, or practice safe sex.
- Use a condom! Both men and women should carry their own condoms. You may have trouble finding reliable brands of condoms abroad; some countries may not even sell condoms; only latex condoms are effective against HIV.
- Use water-based lubricants/jellies containing spermicide in addition to a condom during vaginal and anal intercourse.
- Do not use illicit injectable drugs. Do not use needles and syringes that may have been used previously.
For additional information, contact the following resources: CDC National HIV/AIDS Hotline: 1-800- 342-AIDS; In Spanish: 1-800-344-7432; For the Hearing Impaired: 1-800-243-7889. CDC National Clearinghouse: 1-800-458-5231. World Health Organization: 1-202-861-3200.
A SAFE TRIP ABROAD
Information in this section is taken from: DEPARTMENT OF STATE PUBLICATION 10399 Bureau of Consular Affairs-Revised August 1996
Millions of U.S. citizens travel abroad each year without incidents. When you travel abroad, the odds are in your favor that you will have a safe and incident-free trip. However, crime and violence, as well as unexpected difficulties, do befall U.S. citizens in all parts of the world. No one is better able to tell you this than U.S. consular officers who work in the more than 250 U.S. embassies and consulates around the globe. Every day of the year U.S. embassies and consulates receive calls from American citizens in distress.
Fortunately, most problems can be solved over the telephone or by a visit of the U.S. citizen to the Consular Section of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. But there are less fortunate occasions when U.S. consular officers are called on to meet U.S. citizens at foreign police stations, hospitals, prisons, and even at morgues. In these cases, the assistance that consular officers can offer is specific but limited.
In hope of helping you avoid unhappy meetings with consular officers when you go abroad, we have prepared the following travel tips. Please have a safe trip abroad.
WHAT TO BRING
Safety begins when you pack. To avoid being a target, dress conservatively. A flashy or overly casual wardrobe can mark you as a tourist. As much as possible, avoid the appearance of being affluent.
Try to travel light. Traveling light allows you to move more quickly and you will be more likely to have a free hand. You will also be less tired and less likely to set your luggage down, leaving it unattended.
Carry the minimum amount of valuables necessary for your trip and plan a place to conceal them. One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing. When you have to carry them on your person, you may wish to conceal them in several places rather than putting them all in one wallet or pouch. Avoid handbags, fanny packs and outside pockets, which are easy targets for thieves. Inside pockets and a sturdy shoulder bag with the strap worn across your chest are somewhat safer. When it is not necessary to carry them, your passport, cash and credit cards are most secure when locked in your residence or in a hotel safe.
Keep medicines in their original, labeled containers to avoid problems when passing through customs. Pack them in your carry-on luggage.
Bring travelers checks and one or two major credit cards instead of too much cash.
Bring one copy of these documents:
- passport identification page, and an extra set of passport photos in case you need to replace your passport
- airline tickets
- driver’s license and the credit cards that you plan to bring with you
- serial numbers of your traveler’s checks.
Label your luggage. Put your name, address and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage. Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality and, if possible (but most likely impossible these days due to security reasons), lock your luggage.
Consider getting a telephone calling card. See the section on Keeping in Touch for more information on calling options.
WHAT TO LEAVE BEHIND
Leave at home: valuable or expensive-looking jewelry, irreplaceable family objects, and all unnecessary credit cards.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home, in case they need to contact you in an emergency.
Leave behind one copy of these documents:
- passport identification page,
- airline tickets,
- driver’s license and credit cards that you plan to bring with you.
- serial numbers of your traveler’s checks.
Leave one photocopy of this data with family or friends at home; pack the other in a place separate from where you keep your valuables.
WHAT TO LEARN BEFORE YOU GO
Your personal safety while you are away from home is a very important consideration, to you, to your family and friends, to your program sponsor and to Allegheny College. In this spirit, we offer some thoughts, information, and advice, some of which has changed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
The U.S. Department of State’s Consular Information Sheets are available for every country of the world. They describe unusual entry, currency regulations or unusual health conditions, the crime and security situation, political disturbances, areas of instability, special information about driving and road conditions, and drug penalties. They also provide addresses and emergency telephone numbers for U.S. embassies and consulates. In general, the sheets do not give advice. Instead, they describe conditions so travelers can make informed decisions about their trips.
In some dangerous situations, however, the Department of State recommends that Americans defer travel to a country. In such a case, a Travel Warning is issued for the country in addition to its Consular Information Sheet.
Public Announcements are a means to disseminate information about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term and/or transnational conditions posing significant risks to the security of American travelers. They are issued when there is a perceived threat usually involving Americans as a particular target group. In the past, Public Announcements have been issued to deal with short-term coups, pre-election disturbances, violence by terrorists, and anniversary dates of specific terrorist events.
Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements are available at the 13 regional passport agencies; at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad; and by mail. They are also available through airline computer reservation systems when you or your travel agent make your international air reservations.
USE THE WEB, but carefully! It provides both good information and not-so-good advice!
Local Laws and Customs
When you leave the United States, you are subject to the laws of the country where you are. Therefore, before you go, try to learn as much as you can about the laws and customs of your host country. Good resources are your library, your travel agent, and the embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus of the countries you will visit. In addition, use the media to keep track of recent developments in those countries.
PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE WHILE TRAVELING
Safety On The Street
Use the same common sense traveling overseas that you would at home. Be especially cautious in or avoid areas where you are likely to be victimized. These include crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, festivals and marginal areas of cities.
Don’t use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets. Try not to travel at night.
Be informed. Watch and learn what the locals are doing. If they do not go out after 9 p.m. without an escort, you shouldn’t either. If they walk with an escort or don’t carry large purses or do not put their wallets in their back pockets, you should follow their lead. Ask questions of resource people, like your host family, your resident director, or your contact person at the international study office, if you are uncertain. Read newspapers, listen to local TV/radio, and consult the U.S. Consulate.
Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
Avoid scam artists. Beware of strangers who approach you, offering bargains or to be your guide.
Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will: 1, jostle you; 2, ask you for directions or the time; 3, point to something spilled on your clothing; 4, or distract you by creating a disturbance. A child or even a woman carrying a baby can be a pickpocket. Beware of groups of vagrant children who create a distraction while picking your pocket.
Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers.
Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. When possible, ask directions only from individuals in authority.
Know how to use a pay telephone; have proper change, token or card on hand.
Be informed about local traffic laws and road conditions. The Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) statistics indicates that the single greatest cause of death and serious injury abroad is road accidents, far exceeding the number of deaths resulting from disease, violence or terrorism. Avoid car or bus travel at night; use a seat belt where possible.
Learn a few phrases in the local language (if you aren’t studying it) so you can signal your need for help, the police, or a doctor. Make note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
If you are confronted, don’t fight back. Give up your valuables. Your money and passport can be replaced, but you cannot.
Remember that you are in a different culture and culture norms vary. While this may seem obvious, sometimes it’s not so clear what the implications are. Take it slow before taking on pieces of a new culture without understanding the whole fabric!!!
Millions of Americans have traveled without incident during the past ten years, but it is important to emphasize standard precautions given to students going abroad.
Avoid going to places identified as American hangouts like U.S. military bases and the restaurants and nightclubs nearby or large tourist hotels that cater to Americans or are run by American companies.
Stay out of the entry areas when going through airports or train stations, and go as quickly as possible to secured areas, e.g. gates or train platforms, where only ticketed customers are allowed to go.
Do not look like a tourist. Avoid wearing t-shirts, sweatshirts, or baseball caps with American logos, like a college name or the name of a city. Don’t wear your camera around your neck.
Check with the U.S. consulate upon entering (or before you go to) a large city to ask about any local unrest or for advice on areas to avoid.
Maintain regular contact with the program director or contact at your program site and let them know of your travel itinerary.
Consider obtaining a cell phone and make sure you know whether its range is local, regional, international, and/or intercontinental. Learn the local equivalent of “911.”
Safety On Public Transportation
If a country has a pattern of tourists being targeted by criminals on public transport, that information is mentioned in the Consular Information Sheets under the “Crime Information” section.
Taxis. Take taxis clearly identified with official markings. Beware of unmarked cabs.
Trains. Well-organized, systematic robbery of passengers on trains along popular tourists routes is a serious problem. It is more common at night and especially on overnight trains.
If you see your way blocked by a stranger and another persons is very close to you from behind, move away. This can happen in the corridor of the train or on the platform or station.
Do not accept food or drink from strangers. Criminals have been known to drug food or drink offered to passengers. Criminals may also spray sleeping gas in train compartments.
When possible, lock your compartment. If it cannot be locked securely, take turns sleeping in shifts with your traveling companions. If that is not possible, stay awake. If you must sleep unprotected, tie down your luggage, strap your valuables to you and sleep on top of them as much as possible.
Do not be afraid to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way. Extra police are often assigned to ride trains on routes where crime is prevalent.
Buses. The same type of criminal activity found on trains can be found on public buses on popular tourist routes. For example, tourists have been drugged and robbed while sleeping on busses or bus stations. The same precautions that go with trains can equally be supplied to buses as well.
Safety at your Study Site
Room security: Make sure all outside doors and windows close and lock. Immediately report any doors or windows that don’t close or lock properly. Keep doors locked at all times. Know the layout of your buildings and how to exit in an emergency.
Secure valuable objects and documents. Keep them hidden, preferably in a locked container, while you are out of the house. When you are not traveling, secure your passport in your residence and carry a photocopy of it with you for identification. Write your local address and an emergency contact on the back.
Get to know your neighborhood. Who are the residents? Who works in your building if you live in an apartment? Know where streets and alleys lead in your vicinity and the normal pattern of activity in the area. This will help you identify strangers and suspicious events.
Be cautious and choosy about whom you invite into your residence. If you live in a dormitory or apartment, meet visitors in the lobby. Most programs that put you with local families discourage you from inviting people into your house if it’s allowed at all.
Let someone you trust know your destination and estimated time of return when you go out, especially if you will be gone for a full day or more.
Safety In Your Hotel
Keep your hotel door locked at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby. Use the hotel safe to store money and valuables while you are out. Let someone know when you expect to return if you are out late at night. If you are alone, do not get on an elevator if there is a suspicious-looking person inside. Read the fire safety instructions in your hotel room. Be sure you know where the nearest exits are located. Count the doors between your room and the nearest exit. This could be a life-saver when you have to crawl through a smoke-filled corridor.
How To Handle Money Safely
Change your traveler’s checks only as you need currency to avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Countersign traveler’s checks only in front of the person who will cash them. Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill. Make sure your credit card is returned to you after a transaction. Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money, buy airline tickets or purchase souvenirs. Do not change money on the black market. If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims and as an explanation of your plight. Next, report the loss or theft of: 1) traveler’s checks to the nearest agent of the issuing company, 2) credit cards to the issuing company, 3) airline tickets to the airline or travel agent, and 4) passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
How To Avoid Legal Difficulties
You can be arrested overseas for actions that may either be legal or considered minor infractions in the United States. Be aware of what is considered criminal in the country where you are. Consular Information Sheets include information on unusual patterns of arrest in various countries when appropriate.
Some offenses that warrant arrest: DRUG VIOLATIONS
See Travel Warnings on Drugs Abroad. More than 1/3 of U.S. citizens arrested abroad are held on drug charges. Some countries do not distinguish between possession and trafficking. Many countries have mandatory sentences—-even for possession of a small amount of marijuana or cocaine. A number of Americans have been arrested for possessing prescription drugs, particularly tranquilizers and amphetamines, that they purchased legally in certain Asian countries and then brought to some countries in the Middle East where they are illegal. Other U.S. citizens have been arrested for purchasing prescription drugs abroad in quantities that local authorities suspected were for commercial use. If in doubt about foreign drug laws, ask local authorities or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
POSSESSION OF FIREARMS U.S. citizens have been arrested for possession of firearms abroad. For more information, see A Safe Trip Abroad at http://travel.state.gov. NOTE: There is no Allegheny study abroad program for which it is advisable to pack firearms.
PHOTOGRAPHY In many countries you can be harassed or detained for photographing such things as police and military installations, government buildings, border areas and transportation facilities. If you are in doubt, ask permission before taking photographs.
PROTECTION AGAINST TERRORISM acts occur at random and unpredictably, making it impossible to protect oneself absolutely. The first and best protection is to avoid travel to unsafe areas where there has been a persistent record of terrorist acts and/or kidnappings. The vast majority of foreign states have good records of maintaining public order and protecting residents and visitors within their borders from terrorism.
Most terrorist attacks are the result of long and careful planning. Just as a car thief will first be attracted to an unlocked car with the key in the ignition, terrorists are looking for defenseless, easily accessible targets who follow predictable patterns. The chances that a tourist, traveling with an unpublished program or itinerary, would be the victim of terrorism are slight. In addition, many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, may not be looking for American targets.
Safety Notes for Women
Be aware. Learn quickly those local situations where you might be harassed or molested. In many places, you may have to contend with the local notion that as an American woman are immodest, promiscuous, and wanton.
Ask local women what to expect and find out which non-verbal messages (eye contact, tone, gestures, dress, etc.) to avoid.
Strive to blend in and be discreet. When socializing, have a “buddy” with you, keep aware of your surroundings, especially at night, and always carry money and the telephone number for a taxi to get home, if needed.
Know what is culturally acceptable. Discuss sexual harassment with former students and talk with the local staff if you are uncertain. If you are verbally hassled on the street, the best path is to ignore it, unless you are touched or your safety is threatened.
Especially consider obtaining a cell phone. Women who must take taxis alone or travel to unfamiliar areas by themselves are urged to think about having a cell phone.
Tips for Women Traveling Alone
Each country and culture has their own views of what is appropriate behavior for women. Although you may not agree with these views, it is wise to abide by the local laws and customs to avoid problems. Please become familiar with the laws and customs of the places where you wish to go.
Women traveling alone often are more vulnerable to problems in certain cultures. Keeping in mind the following information can help make your trip as safe and rewarding as possible.
Safety and Security: Use common sense and be alert and aware of your surroundings. If you are unsure in general about the local situation, feel free to check with the American Citizens Services section of the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the latest security information.
Don’t announce that you are traveling alone: Display confidence. By looking and acting as if you know where you’re going, you may be able to ward off some potential danger. Some guides for women even advise wearing a wedding ring if you’re single. If you feel like you’re being followed, step into a store or other safe place and wait to see if the person you think is following has passed. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask someone to
double check for you to see if all is safe.
Ask for directions before you set out: No matter how modest your lodgings are, your hotel concierge or other hotel staff should be able to help. If you find yourself lost, do not be afraid to ask for directions. Generally, the safest people to ask are families or women with children. Getting the right information may save you from ending up in a potentially unsafe area.
Hotels: Choose a hotel with good security and readily available transportation. Check that all the doors and windows in your room have locks and that they work. Always use your peephole and common sense about letting strangers into your room.
Clothing: There is no doubt that fashion makes a statement. Unfortunately, no everyone will interpret how you dress the same way you would. What you consider casual clothing might be seen as provocative or inappropriate in other cultures. Thieves might choose you over another potential target based on your style of dress or the amount of makeup or jewelry you are wearing. Others might single you out for harassment or even physical violence because they find your clothing offensive, based on their cultural norms. By taking your cues from local women, or at lest by dressing conservatively, you could save yourself a great deal of trouble.
Cultural Norms, Dating Behavior and Alcohol: Cultural norms for consuming alcohol and for social and dating behavior vary greatly among cultures. Many students would agree that dating behavior and sexual cues are difficult enough to learn in one’s own culture! It can be a challenge to decipher the subtle
cues in your host culture. Communications as simple as smiles and eye contact can have different meanings in different cultures. For instance, in some cultures the ready friendliness that Americans often offer to acquaintances and strangers may be mistaken for a sexual invitation. In navigating the field of dating behavior in your host culture, we advise you to
- expect differences
- observe before you act
- communicate your boundaries clearly
- move away from situations that make you feel uncomfortable.
As you gain friends from your host culture, they may be able to help you interpret social behavior. Or, consult your on-site program or international office staff if you have questions or concerns. If you are experiencing an acute or on-going situation, be sure to seek assistance to resolve the situation.
Alcohol can complicate social interaction when it is consumed aggressively, as in binge drinking, by you or the people around you. Since alcohol suppresses inhibition, normal social rules and boundaries (the cultural code you are just learning) may be pushed to, or over, the lines of acceptability and respect. Communication signals are more likely to be missed or ignored. You may be aware of this from experience at home.
If you choose to drink alcohol, realize that:
- intoxication may flag you as a good target for being robbed, taken advantage of sexually, or assaulted;
- alcohol can impair your judgment and your ability to recognize risky situations;
- alcohol can impair the judgment and change the behavior of companions as well as strangers in the vicinity.
Practice “sane partying”:
- Go out with friends and look out for one another until you all get home.
- Know how you will get home when you go out. Will buses be running? Will you call a cab?
- Keep your boundaries with new acquaintances as well as with strangers.
- Be aware of becoming isolated from the group.
Date Rape and Sexual Violence
Behaviors and attitudes toward sex and sexual assault vary across cultures. Perhaps you are aware that most rapes are not perpetrated by strangers. In fact, about two-thirds of rape victims know their assailants as intimate, friends, or acquaintances. Therefore, being among people you know or are familiar with does not necessarily protect you from sexual violence. Being close to home doesn’t ensure safety, either. Over half of rapes or sexual
assaults occur within a mile of the victim’s residence. In addition, alcohol and/or drugs are involved in the majority of sexual assaults and rapes. Studies have shown that “as the consumption of alcohol by either the victim or perpetrator increases, the rate of serious injuries associated with dating violence also increases.” (data from www.pavnet.org and www.rainn.org).
To reduce your risk of becoming a victim of sexual violence, beware of wandering into a secluded area alone or with just one other person, even when you are out with a group of acquaintances; practice safe habits and being alert in your local environment as well as you when you are in unfamiliar territory; and be cautious in social situations involving alcohol, especially if heavy drinking is going on.
. . .Of course, if you are unknowingly drugged, you will not be able to protect yourself. Incidents of robbery and sexual violence that involve “rape drugs” appear to be rising. The following section discusses two common rape drugs and gives safety habits you can practice to protect yourself from being drugged.
Rohypnol and GHB are two drugs commonly used to subdue or incapacitate a victim for the purpose of sexual assault. Robbery may also be a motive. Both of these drugs are illegal in the U.S. Rohypnol, however, is a legal drug in many countries around the world. It is in the same family of drugs as Valium and Xanax but is about ten times as potent. Rohypnol may cause confusion, disorientation, impaired judgment, impaired motor skills, reduced levels of consciousness, and complete or partial amnesia about the period after ingestion. When combined with alcohol or other drugs, its effects can be life-threatening.
“Dosing” is usually accomplished by adding a crushed or whole tablet to the victim’s drink, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic, while s/he is distracted or out of sight. The drug dissolves completely and causes no change in color, taste, or odor of the beverage. Thus the victim is unaware that s/he has been drugged. Rohypnol usually acts within 15-30 minutes and its effects may last many hours.
GHB is another commonly used rape drug. Like Rohypnol, GHB is illegal in the U.S.; may cause disorientation, unconsciousness and/or memory loss for events following ingestion; acts within 30 minutes; and its effects can be life-threatening if combined with alcohol or other drugs. Unlike Rohypnol, GHB can be made “on the street” and is usually used in the form of a clear liquid or crystalline powder. The clear liquid is colorless and odorless but does have a slightly salty taste. The salty taste of GHB is sometimes masked by mixing it with a sweet liqueur.
Beverages: Practice Your Usual Precautions
- Only drink beverages that you open yourself. Don’t take drinks from punch bowls or from open containers. Don’t share or exchange drinks with anyone.
- If someone offers you a drink from the bar at a club or a party, accompany the person to the bar to order your drink, watch the drink being poured, and carry the drink yourself.
- Keep your eye and your hand on your drink at all times. If you have left your drink unattended while talking, dancing, using the restroom, or making a phone call, discard it.
- Don’t drink anything with an unusual taste or appearance (e.g. salty taste, excessive foam, unusual residue)
What should I do if I am sexually assaulted?
- Find a safe environment – anywhere away from the attacker. Ask a trusted friend to stay with you for moral support.
- Preserve evidence of the attack – don’t bathe or brush your teeth. Write down all the details you can recall about the attack and the attacker.
- Contact your on-site program coordinator or Allegheny’s International Office for support and assistance. Allegheny College maintains strict confidentiality for any victim of violence.
- Get medical attention. Even with no physical injuries, it is important to determine the risks of STDs and pregnancy. To preserve forensic evidence, ask the hospital to conduct a rape kit exam. If you think you have been drugged, ask for a urine test as well.
- Report the rape to law enforcement authorities.
- Consider working through your recovery with a counselor.
- Remember it wasn’t your fault.
- Recognize that healing from rape takes time. Give yourself the time you need.
- Know that it’s never too late to call. Many victims do not realize they need help until months or years later.