A female flight attendant, traveling with two male pilots, arrived in Athens, Greece, for an overnight stay at a four star hotel. The three checked in at the same time, chatting with each other at the front desk and making dinner plans for later that evening. They exchanged room numbers and agreed to meet at 9 p.m. that evening in the lobby. The flight crew was unaware that many perpetrators hang around in hotel lobbies to gather information they can later use to commit crimes against the guests.
Shortly after the female flight attendant arrived in her room, which was at the end of a hallway and across from the staircase—not a good location for a female traveler—she heard a knock on her door. She asked who it was, and heard someone say, “Lady, the pilot told me to bring this package to your room. He said you needed it right away.”
The flight attendant opened the door. Unfortunately, the person on the other side was not a delivery person working for the hotel, but an attacker who brutally raped her. Though she survived the incident physically, she was emotionally traumatized, suffering severe post traumatic stress that almost destroyed her life.
This case is just one example of how female travelers are targeted by attackers. The tragedy is that the incident could easily have been avoided with a little advance training. The flight attendant’s response to the stranger should have been, “Leave it at the front desk and I will pick it up later.” She could then have phoned her crew members to verify the story and determine whether there really was a package. She should also have requested a less remote room when she checked in.
Women have come a long way since the days when they were considered the weaker sex, but the reality is that women are physically more vulnerable than their male counterparts when they travel, and they face unique risks. Criminals, intruders, stalkers, kidnappers, and rapists worldwide profile women who are out and about and target the ones who appear unaware, unfamiliar with their surroundings, and unlikely to fight back.
All workers should be given travel security tips, but it is doubly important that female workers be well trained in travel security, made aware of the special risks they face, and taught how to minimize their exposure to them. Companies, through their human resource or security personnel, can teach women what it takes to become a hardened target. (Much of the advice can be useful to male employees as well.)