Safety and Security
Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American can put a Volunteer at risk. Property theft and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without a serious safety and security incident. Together, the Peace Corps and Volunteers can reduce risk, but cannot truly eliminate all risk. Read more on how the Peace Corps approaches safety and security.
Support from Staff
The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your service. The plan includes information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for responding safety and security incidents.
Our first priority after an incident is to make sure the Volunteer is safe and receiving any necessary medical treatment. The faster an incident is reported, the faster we can provide support, including security, medical, emotional, and legal. Peace Corps staff will also support Volunteers who choose to make a formal complaint with local law enforcement. It’s important for Volunteers to report incidents as soon as possible after they occur so that Peace Corps can assess and determine if there is a lingering or ongoing safety and security concern for either Volunteer victim or their peer Volunteers, and take the necessary precautions to preserve the right to file a complaint if they choose to do so. The Peace Corps will train you to develop strategies mitigate risk and how to respond if you are the victim of a crime, including how to get to a safe location quickly and contact your Peace Corps office.
Crimes that do occur abroad are investigated and prosecuted by local jurisdictional authorities. If you decide to file a complaint, the Peace Corps will assist you in navigating this process. All Volunteers who are victims of crime have access to the Office of Victim Advocacy, which provides information on the medical, emotional, and legal support options available, and will support you through the process. The Office of Victim Advocacy is available 24/7.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
As a Volunteer, you must be prepared to assume a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. To reduce the likelihood that you will become a victim of crime, you can take steps to make yourself less of a target such as integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. In many ways, you can do what you would do if you moved to a new city anywhere: Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware.
Factors that Contribute to Risk
Numerous factors can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within a Volunteer’s control. By far the most common crime that Volunteers experience is theft of property, which is more likely to happen when Volunteers are away from their sites, in crowded locations (such as markets or on public transportation), and when leaving items unattended. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people in smaller villages/towns know each other and are more likely to look out for their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns are favorite worksites for pickpockets.
Before you depart for service, you can take measures to reduce risk:
- Leave valuable objects in the United States, particularly those that are irreplaceable or have sentimental value
- Leave copies of important documents and account numbers with someone you trust in the States
- Purchase a hidden money pouch or “dummy” wallet as a decoy
- Purchase personal articles insurance
After you arrive in-country, you will receive detailed information about common crimes, factors that contribute to Volunteer risk, and local strategies to reduce that risk. Some of those include avoiding high-risk areas, knowing the local language, choosing safe routes for travel, and limiting alcohol consumption. You will also be informed of local safety and security policies, including any prohibitions on using certain types of public transportation, hitchhiking, and; avoiding high-risk recreation activities; and others.
Please take time to review the crime data and statistics for Indonesia.
Safety Issues In-Country
The following are security concerns in Indonesia of which you should be aware:
- Petty theft, particularly on crowded public streets. Thieves on motorcycles may snatch handbags from pedestrians. Volunteers in Indonesia have experienced thefts, generally when they were away from their site and particularly while taking public transportation. Volunteers are trained in how to mitigate such theft during pre-service training.
- Female Volunteers have reported incidents of touching and groping while traveling alone. There is no indication that Volunteers are being specifically targeted; Indonesian women report such incidents as a common occurrence. In addition, these acts do not appear to be a precursor to more serious levels of sexual assault. The vast majority of Volunteers report feeling safe and secure within their communities and receive training throughout their service on how to reduce the risk from these and other types of crime.
- Alcohol consumption is culturally suppressed in most provinces in Indonesia. In certain provinces, it is considered a serious violation to local norms and traditions.. In addition, there are news reports of deaths in the general population caused by “homemade” (and therefore unregulated) alcohol and spirits. Volunteers are trained so that they understand the risks and ramifications of consuming alcohol.
- Traffic accidents are common, as there are more than 35 million motor vehicles in Indonesia. The danger of congested streets is compounded by drivers who may not know or heed traffic regulations. Traffic safety issues are discussed during training.
- Indonesia experiences periodic acts of political violence, civil unrest, and terrorism. Peace Corps Indonesia, with strong support of Indonesian government counterparts, places Volunteers in areas of the country where their exposure to such acts is relatively remote. The prime targets of terrorist activities have not been individuals, but rather institutions such as the police and governmental offices. Provinces or districts which have a record of political unrest are not considered for Volunteer placement.
Indonesia is geographically situated in the “Ring of Fire,” an area of the Pacific basin where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Sites located within a 20- kilometer radius of an active volcano, or those which are prone to flooding or landslides, are not considered for Volunteer placement. During training, Emergency Action Plans are presented and practiced. After training, Volunteers receive relevant updates and alerts, as needed.