Fighting for Women

Written by on January 21, 2018 in Belgium, Blog, Europe, Travel Tips, Travel Tips Featured - 6 Comments

I’m tired. Like, words can’t even comprehend how tired I am. My brain whirrs. Thumps. Never rests.

It’s been a little over a month since that night in Bruges, and I’ve experienced a myriad of emotions. Of grief. Of embarrassment. Of guilt. Of shame. Of anger. Of frustration. Of feeling powerless. (Ed note: you’ll need to read this post first about my being sexually assaulted at the hostel where I was staying – Hostel Lybeer in Bruges – by one of the staff members)

#timesuptravel

No one tells you the aftermath of sexual assault (and my god, what sucks the most) is that I still feel the need to explain why this was sexual assault. So, one last time:  consent cannot be given when impaired, and holy shit was I impaired by booze or drugs or both.

They also don’t tell you how to deal with a business owner who messages you and tells you he doesn’t want to embarrass you, but oh hey, you “weren’t so innocent.” Drunk, yes. Wasted. Yup. “Hammered.” You bet. But also, you weren’t innocent. Like the two can go together in any way, shape or form. (If you want to see the message in all of its glory from the owner of Hostel Lybeer, Stephane Kolijn, scroll down to the bottom of the post about what happened at Hostel Lybeer. You can’t miss the book I wrote back to him.)

I can tell you what it feels like when you receive a thoughtless, shaming response: like absolute shit. Crumble-to-the-ground-crying-can’t-breathe-panic-kind-of-shit.

No one tells you what it feels like when a company you reach out to for help in warning other women — Hostelworld, the mammoth hostel booking engine — informs you they’ve spoken with said owner and they have a longstanding and good relationship with them and that they provide a lot of referrals. So, yeah, they’re not going to do anything other than flag the hostel internally.

There’s no one to tell you that businesses won’t have your side. That, oh yes, you’re brave, but nothing is going to change.

But, there is a community.

A posse of strong, empowered women who travel. Who see through the corporate bullshit. Who read messages from hostel owners and see through the defensive language to the blatant inadvertent admittance of guilt on their end. There are the women who hold you up. Who remind you you’re strong. Who thank you, countless times, for speaking because it’s not easy to speak. And, it’s not easy to share. And shit, it’s not easy being victim blamed and shamed.

Blaming and shaming. That’s actually the worst.

So, guess what. Hostelworld may not have my back. The hostel owner may not have my back. But, guess who does have my back? Trip Advisor (please, go mark my review as Helpful). In fact, TA was incredible. They took time to go over my review, met with their team, made sure I was protected. Their rep even called me on his day off to update me on what was going on.

And, guess who else has my back?

Hundreds and thousands of women. The Girls Love Travel community has been incredible and helped me more than I ever imagined social media could. And, through the strength and support of these women, it became extremely clear to me that we protect each other. We look out for each other. And since the companies that make the money from hostels don’t seem to be taking this too seriously, I’m going to create a solution to this that does and support the women who have supported. me.

I’m launching a site that will rate hostels based on how safe women feel and if they experience predatory behavior by staff, they will be flagged. I’m also going to offer an opportunity to let hostels take an online course in sexual assault, predatory behavior and the like and once the course is complete, they will be noted as being Assault Aware on the site. The site will also provide resources for women who have been assaulted, and a safe space for women to come forward when they are comfortable (if they ever are) to do so and help others to avoid dangerous situations.

This #metoo #timesup movement isn’t just restricted to Hollywood. Or the work place. It’s everywhere now and I’m going to make sure it plants firm roots in the travel industry, next.

What none of these people in power realized when this happened was that the men at Hostel Lybeer (both the man who assaulted me and the owner who denied any wrongdoing, yet admitted inadvertently it was sexual assault) —  was that I am empowered and not afraid to use my voice to stand up to them and let them know — and the industry — that this behavior isn’t simply unacceptable, it’s criminal.

And now, it’s time to make sure he — and all of the others around the world,  because holy crap are there a lot of women who have privately messaged me sharing their accounts of assault and rape at the hands of hostel and hotel staff members — don’t get to put their hands on us again.

Women who have been assaulted — it wasn’t your fault. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Ashamed of. These men who do this are predators. And guess what? Their #timesup.

Boycott Hostelworld.

Book your hostels directly through their own websites and before you do that, read the worst reviews for each property on all of the platforms to get a sense for whether or not you should feel safe there.

Join the #timesuptravel movement today and help encourage hostel owners, the booking engines who sell their rooms and more to start to take responsibility for allegations of assault and rape, and remove hostels from booking engines when these incidents occur so no other women can be put in the same situation. If you can help me launch this campaign — whether it’s in the form of a news story, legal expertise, donation to help cover start-up costs and advisors, time, whatever — anything is appreciated. E-mail me — diana@dtravelsround.com —  and let me know how you want to get involved. It ALL helps.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

6 Comments on " Fighting for Women "

  1. Alouise January 24, 2018 at 3:51 pm · Reply

    Diana, I read your previous post about this horrendous experience you had in Brussels and was equally parts horrified, angry, and sad. The fact the hostel owner is blaming you (when you could not give consent) and Hostel World won’t take any steps to punish or even inform female travelers about this crime is sickening. I haven’t booked anything through Hostel World for a while, and I definitely won’t from now on. Your hostel review site for women sounds like a fantastic idea and I’ve already signed up for the Facebook group. Times up indeed. I have a travel blog that I’m doing a redesign on, but once it’s launched I’ll get in touch to write about this.

    Thank you for taking such a horrible event and creating something that will have a positive impact for everyone.

    • Diana January 24, 2018 at 5:13 pm · Reply

      Alouise, thank you for your support. Yeah, Stephane Kolijn’s response to me was pretty appalling, to say the least. And, Hostelworld’s lack of movement is disheartening and pretty damn infuriating. I would love to launch a boycott … trying to figure out how to make it impactful/ Thank you for joining the group and lending your voice to this cause. <3

  2. Jennifer January 30, 2018 at 5:28 pm · Reply

    You are an inspiration. kudoes to you for not taking this horrific incident and the aftermath quietly. 💯 behind you.

    • Diana February 2, 2018 at 11:22 am · Reply

      Thank you. The responses I received from women who shared their stories, the ignorant response from the owner (Safe post in the comments) and the lack of action from Hostelworld, made it VERY clear to me that this was a serious issue and nothing was being done about it. Time to make that change.

  3. Jan Baard February 14, 2018 at 8:59 am · Reply

    Owner says he has you on camera. Any comments on that?

    • Diana February 14, 2018 at 12:46 pm · Reply

      Yes, I commented in my response to him.

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