With a spike in claims for sexual assaults, Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) is advising woman to be extra cautious when travelling.
In the last four months SCTI has dealt with five sexual assaults. This is an unprecedented number in the company’s 32 years of operation as they were previously seeing just one or two a year.
The assaults have occurred in different countries within Europe and South America and the only common factor in all the events has been alcohol.
Emergency Assistance Manager Karen Broughton says most of the victims believe their drinks were spiked while they were at a bar prior to the assault. One assault took place in a bar, while the others happened in residential dwellings.
Some of the victims had been “befriended” by a male who then forced them to have unprotected sex.
Broughton says when dealing with these cases the highest priority is to make sure the victims are safe, get them to a clinic for treatment, HIV testing and counselling, and to ascertain whether they need to be repatriated.
“The experiences are obviously dreadful and these women are having to deal with the aftermath of a traumatic event when they are alone and a long way from home.”
“This is why we are reminding travellers – particularly women travelling alone – to remain vigilant, even when they are at their most relaxed.
“You might be in the most beautiful place on earth but it’s a place that’s foreign and you need to be cautious when out on the town.”
SCTI recommends that all travellers do some research about their destination and Broughton suggests forums, such as those on TripAdvisor and LonelyPlanet.
“Forums are a curated collection of individual reviews, viewpoints and opinions and they can be a great way to pick up valuable tips and recommendations for specific locations - particularly for solo travellers.”
Other safety tips include:
- If you are travelling alone and going out for an evening, see if you can join in with an established group of travellers to give you more safety, at least until you become more familiar with your surroundings.
- Plan how you will be getting back to your accommodation – check what time public transport finishes, or pre-arrange a taxi.
- If you are having a drink in a bar, never leave it unattended. If you are with a friend, ask them to hold it while you go to the toilet or to dance. If you are by yourself, leave it and purchase a new one.
- Only accept drinks from people you trust. If you accept a drink from somebody you have just met, or don’t know well, watch as the drink is made and served directly to you.
- Go for unopened bottled drinks that you have watched the bartender open, rather than drinks served in a glass.
If your drink has a bitter, salty or strange taste, don’t drink it.