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SAFETI Adaptation Of Peace Corps Resources
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Personal Safety
SAFETI Adaptation of Peace Corps Resources:
Pre–Departure Health Training Handbook
Personal Safety

Adapted from "Personal Safety" module, Pre-Service Health Training for Volunteer Binder, Peace Corps Office of Medical Services


According to the Peace Corps, the number and severity of personal safety and security issues is rising in virtually all countries. Problems range from minor verbal harassment to theft and robbery to serious physical and sexual assault. These incidents are of concern to all students and staff.

Try to obtain country and region specific statistics on physical and sexual assault.

Some incidents are not avoidable, but many are.


According to Peace Corps records, the situations which place students at greatest risk are:

  • Being out after midnight
  • Being alone at night in an isolated area
  • Being in a known high crime area
  • Sleeping in an unlocked place
  • Being out after a local curfew
  • Being intoxicated


It is useful to remind students that they have been using a variety of strategies to avoid harm while living in the United States and to review what those strategies are:

  • Listening for what is being said around them
  • Keeping watch for suspicious people and vehicles
  • Knowing what hours of the night are more dangerous than others
  • Staying in and walking only in those areas that are well lit
  • Avoiding being alone in unfamiliar neighborhoods
  • Knowing where to get help (stores, phones, fire station, etc.)

It is important to discuss the extent to which these strategies are or are not applicable during your time abroad.


Your circumstance as foreigners place you at some increased risk. Specifically, you:

  • Are new to this country
  • May not speak the local language well
  • Are traveling to new places and making new friends
  • Will generally be traveling by public transportation
  • Are curious about your new home and the new culture you are living in
  • Probably stand out in a crowd
  • Have not yet learned the best way to say no in this culture
  • May not yet pick up the "clues" in this culture that you are in danger
  • Have not yet established personal daily routines in your new home


Safety is ultimately the responsibility of each individual student and each person should actively develop his or her own personal safety strategies. Administrators can assist you in developing personal awareness and personal safety strategies. Some suggestions include:

At site:

  • Establishing relationships with hosts, neighbors, and local authorities
  • Improving structural security of residence (shuttered/barred window, door locks, sealed walls/ceilings, etc.)
  • Ensuring access to emergency medical care
  • Developing emergency support/communications network
  • Screening night visitors


  • Notifying the study abroad office of travel plans
  • Wearing prudent attire
  • Restricting night travel
  • Projecting certainty of route and destination
  • Avoiding "high risk" regions
  • Traveling with a friend/ trusted other
  • Inspecting vehicle for safety (tires, overloading, brakes, etc.)
  • Establishing rapport with regular drivers
  • Determining risk levels of varying means of transport (bus, train, taxi, hitch hiking, etc.)
  • (Women) sitting with other women or middle aged couples

Urban Area:

  • Demonstrating vigilance/confidence/"street smarts"
  • Being aware of surroundings
  • Avoiding "high risk" areas
  • Identifying "safe zones"
  • Using "buddy system"
  • Carrying whistle or other personal safety device
  • Locating safe hotels/guest houses
  • Moderating alcohol consumption
  • Carrying only sufficient cash in safe place (pouch, money belt)


If you are a victim of an assault, reporting this incident to the administrator is important because:

  • You may need medical attention
  • You may need to or choose to talk with someone about what has happened
  • You may want or need assistance in working with the local authorities
  • You should be aware of whether the discussion is confidential.

Adapted from "Personal Safety" module, Pre-Service Health Training for Volunteer Binder, Peace Corps Office of Medical Services