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But do female travelers really have to oblige a culture’s rules in order to earn their own basic personal safety?

At what point was the idea of following a culture’s social norms respectful, and at what point was it used as an excuse for victim-blaming?

As long as I did these things, locals told me I’d be fine.

Though I have met so many women who have experienced sexual assault abroad, I rarely see writing or hear conversations that fully reflect these nuances in their experience.The last time it happened, a group of men surrounded me against a wall, and ultimately, I found myself on the floor, arms across my chest, trying to kick them off as they kept peeling apart my arms and sliding their hands up my shirt.It took me many years to call this experience “sexual assault.” Why? As someone who had always thought of myself as strong and assertive, I couldn’t believe my response when it really mattered.” Was “sexual assault” negotiable based on country and culture? Sometimes people also insinuate that a violation only happened because as a foreigner, you did not adhere to a country’s cultural norms. S., who also requested anonymity, was sexually assaulted by two men in Cuba, many of her friends suggested it happened because she acted “too open” around men, and gave off the wrong message.It was an argument I would hear often while traveling: Western women are too independent, too bold.

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