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The Center for Global Education promotes international education to foster cross-cultural awareness, cooperation and understanding. We promote this type of learning by collaborating with colleges, universities and other organizations around the world. It has been my experience over the years as a Consultant to the US Peace Corps that the issue of sexual harassment for women can become a major stress factor that can greatly affect the entire overseas experience. The information included in these pages comes directly from the work I have done with hundreds of inspiring and courageous Peace Corps Volunteer females as well as my own personal experience as a 22 year old Peace Corps Volunteer in Brasil many years ago.
We all want to be culturally sensitive, to get along, to be respectful, to fit in, to not offend. It is very important that the cultural sensitivity training provided never requires that you submit to behaviors that invade your personal boundaries and that feel unsafe or even uncomfortable to you.
Personal boundaries are the personal space around us, physically and emotionally, that serves to preserve our physical and emotional integrity.
Reason Two: Social conditioning in college has influenced boundary understandings by increasing tolerance for loose, fluid boundaries.
Reason Three: We "assume" every one has the same understanding about personal boundaries as we do. In some cultures, allowing a man to enter your house is symbolic of letting him enter your body. So it is, that when someone is being approached by a stranger or unwelcome individual, the amount of strokes should be kept to a minimum. Confrontations of any type serve to encourage harassers who want attention, even negative attention will do.
Use the broken record technique when faced with a situation when someone will not take no for an answer. In the wild, when an animal is either separated from the herd, is weak, young, injured, or otherwise vulnerable, it is likely that a predator will spot the animal, consider it prey and attack. It is essential to your safety that your never allow yourself to be vulnerable to attack, that you avoid behaviors that can make you prey.
You may want to go to a bar or a party and have some fun, let off some steam, kick back and have a good time but if you drink alcohol or use any mood altering substance, you are now potential prey. In his book, deBecker describes seven (7) ways that predators manipulate people to become prey.
If in a situation there is someone giving you more attention that you want, or is finding excuses to touch you, this can be potentially dangerous to your safety. While some men are harassed, women experience the majority of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
There are steps to take to minimize risk in while travelling abroad and maximize fun and a rich cultural experience. Have a buddy system: having at least one other person with you that you trust can help you in regular circumstances as well as in problematic situations (what if someone spikes your drink). Living and working effectively in a global society requires learning with an international perspective. I have listened to and experienced the struggles, fears, frustrations, dilemmas, as well as joys of being a female in a developing culture. Some of us were raised in families with broad rigid boundaries, lots of secrets, locked doors, distance from people, and perhaps even distance from our own emotions. Now enter another country and find the whole issue of boundaries and personal space is highly influenced by cultural norms and very different from what you are accustomed to.

Many men have told women that they "assumed" she wanted sex just because she allowed entry into her house.
In Latin culture, for instance, a man may sit next to a female student on a bus and begin an uninvited conversation with "Oh, baby. Notice the relationships where strokes are not equal—where someone is giving you far more strokes than you are giving out, and notice how it feels inside. Do not be coerced into backing down from your position by the persistence of the person insisting.
You may have the right to walk down the beach at 2:00 in the morning, but if you do, you are making yourself prey to a waiting predator. It is a highly recommended resource for anyone wanting to be more savvy about ways to protect themselves. For example, a guy comes up to a woman and gently brushes his shoulder up against her, flipping her hair off her shoulder, grazing her hand.
If you are a female student, this reality undoubtedly frustrates and angers you to have to be so very aware of your safety.
You are here to experience a different way of life, one that allows you to assimilate into your village, to "join" the community, to have a full, rich cultural experience.
She has been a counseling consultant to the Peace Corps since 1992 and has a specialty in treating trauma, especially sexual and physical assault.
I have learned a great deal from the experience and from the incredible women with whom I have had the privilege of counseling. It can be the doorway through which a college student studying abroad gains entry to and acceptance with the community abroad. Others of us were raised in families with loose boundaries, or inconsistent boundaries where people did not consistently allow personal respect or require privacy, where frequently no one knocked on bedroom doors before entering, where people shared common space and little personal space was available. And the amount of personal space has a certain meaning in one culture and a different meaning in another culture. Being seen with a man, talking with a man, going out with a man may have a different "meaning" in the culture than a female student may intend. When we are communicating with peers, we tend to exchange a comparable number of strokes, a balanced exchange.
I love you." There is a tendency on some women’s part to give a lecture on love to that individual ("How can you love me? When people come at you with strokes that you don’t want, don’t give away any strokes in return.
If you say no with a smile on your face or in a weak, unconvincing voice, the words lose their force and power. Just because they did not accept your "no" does not mean you now need to come up with another reason or excuse.
Actually, it is prudent to stay in a neutral position about a person, neither trusting nor distrusting them at first. Many students reach a point, after which time they can no longer can tolerate the catcalls on the street with the same humor they had when they arrived in country.
I put myself in your hands." Being at the effect of substances of any kind sets us up to be vulnerable to the attack of a predator. She’s thinking, "This is creeping me out, but I’m sure I’m overreacting, I’m sure he doesn’t mean anything." This is where danger begins. If you are a male student, it likely dismays and angers you that women are ever treated disrespectfully.

My life and my clinical work have been immeasurably enriched by the experiences we have shared together.
And some of us (a very few) were raised with more of a balance of closeness, respect, and honoring of privacy and personal space. They may have become accustomed to, and therefore have a high tolerance for loose personal boundaries. Like learning a foreign language, customs and personal boundaries in a new culture are not to be "assumed" to be known, but must be learned for your safety. Where is the best place to entertain men in a safe way without misunderstandings where you live in the US? In communication with those in authority however, the exchange may tend to not be balanced. Say no firmly and swiftly and follow that up with removing yourself from the situation and getting assistance if needed to back you up.
Keep saying the same answer over and over again, without developing a new reason or excuse each time the other person doesn’t accept it. Gather information from this person that will help you determine the trustworthiness of the person.
Being awake and aware allows you to pick up on warning signs that alert you that something is wrong.
Newport conducts the Peace Corps Medical Officer Training on sexual harassment and assault treatment.
Remember it’s the number of strokes that are important, not the quality or content (negative or positive). Get up and move, say no, but do not equalize the number of strokes exchanged as it may only escalate into getting you into more trouble. Some students have acted out toward men on the street (yelling at them, insulting them, throwing things, hitting them) out of exasperation.
This article has been created as an invitation to you to be awake and aware and to acknowledge the realities of potential safety issues around you. She is certified in Clinical Hypnotherapy, NLP and EMDR and uses these modalities extensively in her trauma work. With friends, coworkers, spouse, children, authority figures, parents, strangers, strokes are delivered in varying amounts of balance or imbalance. This woman is then surprised to discover that the man continues and even escalates the harassment rather than moving away. We must not override our sense of fear by saying to ourselves, "I don’t know what I’m worried about, I’m sure nothing’s wrong here", instead of paying attention to that little voice in our gut that says, "I don’t know what’s going on here, but something’s up". Normally we are not aware of this measure of exchange as it operates at an unconscious level. It is very understandable that the harassment has "gotten to you," but exhibiting aggressive behavior back can put you at risk. It is really, really important to pay attention to our intuition, that little sense of knowing that something is amiss here, and not to dismiss it or deny it.

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