Sexual Assault Abroad – Emergency Assistance For Canadians Travelling Outside Canada

You can be sexually assaulted anywhere in the world

While you are planning your trip, find the information you need on the security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture of your destination in the Government of Canada’s Travel Advice and Advisories. This information will give you the knowledge and awareness you need to protect yourself and travel safe. In some countries, foreigners are targeted, so always be careful. Follow the same safety rules while you are travelling that you would at home, only more so:

  • Sexual assault can happen anywhere. While you are at your destination, be aware of your surroundings at all times. 
  • Study a street map in advance or use a map app on your phone. 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, find a police officer or the concierge of a nearby hotel.
  • Try to learn some emergency words or phrases in the local language before you travel and keep the emergency phone numbers (police, ambulance) of the country you are visiting with you.
  • If you are being followed in city or town, cross to the opposite side of the street and go to  the nearest open business or occupied house. If you are uncomfortable about walking back to your hotel, ask them to call a reputable transportation service.
  • If you are in danger, do anything you can to draw attention to the situation. Shout for help or activate a personal security alarm that emits a piercing sound. 
  • Never open your door to anyone without confirming the person’s identity.
  • Never accept car rides or hitchhike. Ask local hotels to recommend reputable transportation services and, whenever possible, try to share rides with someone you know. Write down information on the transportation service (name of driver, permit or taxi number, licence plate) and, if possible, text this information to family or friends.
  • Don’t find yourself alone with someone you don’t know or trust.
  • Remain alert and discreet while in entertainment areas. Go with a group of friends. Arrive together, watch out for each other, and leave together.
  • Never leave your food or drinks alone and never accept snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from strangers. Watch your drinks as they are being prepared and served. They may be spiked with drugs that could put you at risk of robbery or sexual assault.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have been drugged.

You can be sexually assaulted at a resort

  • Foreigners have allegedly been sexually assaulted by resort staff, taxi drivers, other guests and security personnel at resorts at popular tourist destinations. Stay alert at all times and ensure that your accommodations have adequate security features, such as cameras and security guards with radios. Not all resorts have the same level of security, so do your own research before you choose a resort.
  • While you are at the resort, do not tell anyone that you do not know or trust your departure date, because sexual assaults may be more likely to take place on a traveller’s last night at the resort.

For further advice, see Physical assault abroad.

If you have been sexually assaulted abroad

Take the following steps as soon as possible:

  • Report the assault immediately to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or contact The Canadian  Emergency Watch and Response Centre . Consular officials may be able to guide you through the process.
  • Don’t allow non-official authorities such as the hotel management or tour operator to manage the issue internally.
  • After you have spoken with consular officials, contact the local police and file a report.
  • If you are unable to go to the police right away, record all the details you can recall about the attack and the attacker.
  • See a doctor. It is important to determine the risks of sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. See   Sickness or injury  for further advice.
  • If possible, have photographs taken of your injuries.
  • Preserve evidence of the attack. Don’t wash or brush your teeth until the local police or health officials tell you to do so.
  • The police in some countries may be legally obligated to ask you if you want your attacker to be prosecuted.
  • If you leave some countries without filing an official complaint, you may unable to do so from Canada.
  • Contact family and friends back home to reassure them that you are okay, especially if you have been unable to contact them due to the assault.
  • Help cope with the trauma by talking about the incident with family, friends or a professional.

Canadian consular officials abroad can:

  • provide you with contact information for local police and medical services
  • help you find professionals who can help you 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

If the offender is arrested

Depending on the local judicial system, legal proceedings may take much longer than in Canada and you may need a local lawyer. The Canadian government office abroad can give you a list of local lawyers.