A Huge Lesson in Little Corn

* This post contains some graphic content.

Little Corn Island

My instinct told me not to go but wanting to visit an old friend (or more of an old holiday romance), I chose to ignore my gut feeling and found myself paying for the flight from Managua to Big Corn island.

The Corn Islands are two Nicaraguan gems in the Caribbean Sea and are a short flight from mainland Nicaragua. Most travellers in Nicaragua tend to bypass these islands due to the cost of the airfare which for such an extremely cheap country, can be more than a fortnight’s accommodation.

With their so not-so-creative names – Big Corn is obviously the biggest, and Little Corn – yep you guessed it – the smallest. I was heading to Little Corn which is a bit of a scary boat ride away from Big Corn (expect to get very wet).

Why Little Corn? Sometimes you’ve got to revisit your past to know that there’s nothing there anymore and once that had been confirmed and a firm friendship established, I took advantage of the time to stay still and not do anything. I booked a week, planning to write, sunbathe, and make the most of this tiny island with only roughly 1200 people.

The wet ride from Big Corn to Little Corn

The wet ride from Big Corn to Little Corn

Being told that Yemaya had the best beach, I set off with my sunscreen to the northern part of the island to get some well needed Caribbean sun.

The beach was meant to be just a fifteen minute walk away and the sun was beating down as I walked past shrubs and bushes, through a narrow path then opening up to a huge basketball field before the path split into two, getting narrower again. It wasn’t how I imagined. Instead of one direct path to the sand, it was more of a maze of nature trails.

Walking to the beach I felt happy and content. It was so peaceful. I hadn’t come into contact with anyone else on the trail.

Until I heard the sound of fast footsteps running along the dirt track. Thinking it was a runner on a morning run, my instinct was to move out of the way and I stepped aside to let them pass. They didn’t pass. Instead I heard the footsteps stop. “Why would they stop?” I immediately thought and turned to tell them to pass.

Part of the path to the beach

Part of the path to the beach

As I turned my head to look at them, a dark body of a man stood directly facing mine. His trousers were unzipped and I could see everything he had on display as his hand moved back and forth around it. His eyes boring into mine.

I don’t know what happened first. Whether I had exclaimed “Oh my god” in an outburst as I had realised what he was doing, putting my hand up to my mouth at the shock of what I was seeing, or the realisation dawning on me that I was alone with a man masturbating in front of me with bushes all around me. No one else had passed me on this trail and no one would come to my rescue if he pushed me into a bush and attacked me. Just as I had found my voice in Costa Rica, my instinct kicked in again.

“Go Away!” I screamed at the top of my voice in my polite English manner.

I knew no self defence and there was no way that I could have defended myself against this man if he tried to attack me. He was already half naked and it wouldn’t have taken him much to go through with the act. But he didn’t move. My shouting had not deterred him and he was still stood in the same spot.

“FXXK Off!” I screamed at him.

This time he moved. Not far but he ran slightly, still doing the act he had been doing when he stopped. He was now a few meters further away from me on my left, blocking the trail to the beach. I had lost the desire to go anywhere except to get as far away as I could from this man.

I ran. I kept running until I reached the open space of the baseball field, then I turned around to see if he was behind me. He wasn’t. I caught my breath and made it as quickly back to where I was staying and the comfort of my friend, crying my eyes out.

The police were called and he was eventually caught after hiding somewhere on the island. But I still felt shaken up.

Had he been running after me to rape me? Was he just mentally unstable and running around the island masturbating at people. The only thing that had felt true was the fear of being in danger and wanting to get myself out of the situation.

I later found out that he had been caught flashing someone. He had then been pinned down by five men yet had still managed to get himself free. If he had wanted to attack me I wouldn’t have stood a chance. Knowing this made me feel so much worse.

I know that nothing had actually happened, but I couldn’t shake that image for months after. What shook me up the most was the feeling of vulnerability that I had felt.

I had thought I was street wise. I knew what not to do – you don’t walk home alone at night, you don’t stop and ask a group of men for directions, you walk confidently even when you don’t feel it, and you take care in the dark. The dark! This was an island in broad daylight. The thought of walking to a beach and something happening to me had never occurred to me before. Had I just been incredibly lucky all of my life, or had I been incredibly naive instead?

The biggest lesson this experience taught me was that… I knew no self-defence.

Determined not to feel so vulnerable again, I researched self-defence and along with some new friends who I met on the island of St. Vincent, I made a video of the 3 self-defence moves that every woman travelling alone should know.

Did I let this experience ruin the rest of my time on the island? No, but it did change things for me. I only walked around the island with someone else and I waited for the whole group to go home as I left the bar in the evenings. I made sure that I was being escorted somewhere. Was I being a bit too paranoid? Probably, but when you feel fear and you are all alone it doesn’t do any harm to take more precautions in the future.

Having a scare can happen anywhere not just on Little Corn island. The island is stunning and once I made it to the beach with others, it was a piece of Caribbean paradise. As with the rest of my Caribbean trip (posts to follow), I just want to make other women aware of some basic self-defence moves so if you ever find yourself in the same position as me, you’ll know exactly what to do.

Note – I was really worried about writing this post. Being an advocate for solo female travel I have always shown the downsides and challenges that it can sometimes bring. This experience for me highlighted what I still had to learn about travelling alone, even after countless years of travelling solo.

Don't let me put you off this gorgeous little place. This is how beautiful the island is…

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8 thoughts on “A Huge Lesson in Little Corn

  1. Alan

    Thanks for posting this.

    “I know that nothing had actually happened, but I couldn’t shake that image for months after. What shook me up the most was the feeling of vulnerability that I had felt.”

    Something definitely did happen. While not physical, you were assaulted and violated. No one should have to go through what you did. Thank you for your courage in writing this. I am a solo traveler too and I can only imagine it would be much more difficult if I was female.

    Reply
  2. Naomi

    As I was reading this, I couldn’t believe how similar it was to what happened to me in a hostel in San Jose Costa Rica. You feel so vulnerable and helpless as you’re in another country with a different culture – especially in terms of how you’d handle that particular situation in the UK.
    I was staying in a 8 bed mixed dorm in a hostel – the last night of my 4 weeks Central American trip. Myself and one other girl were in the room when a late 30s Colombian man came in and was acting really odd and staring at me from across the room. As I had to get up early for the airport, I decided to get an early night and lay in bed listening to some music. I didn’t know at the time but he had gotten up and locked the door and then I felt him touch my back. I turned around scared as hell and he was stood in front of me with his button and zip undone on his trousers. The other girl who was opposite me was just staring at me in fear. He asked me if I would have sex with him. I was so scared, but I did the same as you. I jumped up and told him to get the f**k away from me. He walked over to the door touching the lock and I jumped up and ran to push the door open. We told the front desk and the girl and I got moved to another room. Later that night, the girl I was sharing with took a
    Shower and when she unlocked the door to leave he was stood outside waiting for her again with his jeans undone. I couldn’t believe it had happened to me. Most people that have travelled had never experienced anything like that and the hostel said nothing of that nature had happened since they opened 10 years ago! It was an awful situation to be in but he actually didn’t do anything although easily could have just by his stare. I think he thought that we were gringas and up for anything and so he could do that and ask the question without retaliation. It makes you wonder what goes through the minds of these men! I’m glad nothing happened to either of us and yourself. It’s funny how our gut instincts kick in in these types of situations.

    Reply
  3. Anon Traveler

    Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing this story. I have recently returned from Nicaragua, and spent a week on Little Corn Island. I was meant to be there much longer but sadly it was not safe for me to do so. I too am a solo female traveler, have been for years but had my first very unpleasant experience on Little Corn Island. I have just shared this info on another blog and would like to add it in here as you are a top blog that comes up when researching Little Corn Island. I’m sharing this as I feel I have to help and protect any current female thinking of traveling to LCI solo at the moment. I hope the situation changes soon but as it currently stands I strongly encourage buddying up with someone on the island to explore with. Thanks x

    I do not currently recommend travelling to Little Corn Islands Solo as a female. If you do then go to a hostel and buddy up with someone or always stick with a group. I went on my own and was approached by a guy they call ‘Rat’ he has just been let out of prison and returned to the island and is a convicted rapist. He approached me on a day when I was on my own on a beach and sat next to me uninvited. It was a very scary and chilling experience, one I never hope to experience again. Other occurrences happened when I was there too and there have been two rapes in the last year, and many more assaults that have gone unreported. These rapes have been severe aggressive attacks too, where the victims have needed facial reconstructive surgery and intense therapy. I’m currently putting together more info now to enlighten other female travelers on the current situation of Little Corn for solo female travelers. I too read blogs and looked on instagram for solo female travelers to the corn island but what the instagram posts don’t show from some of the girls that live there on their own is that they have dogs that surround them in the day as it supposedly scares off attackers, they keep a machete by their door at night and have friends always escort them as soon as dark falls. If you go please meet people and don’t walk alone on your own to the beaches, especially on times that are out of high-season. I have traveled solo for years and have never had what happened or heard what’s happening as I have on LCI and the problem is that it’s all kept on a little island where you are in close proximity and are seeing these assailants daily, and they are seeing you too. Solo female travelers have gone and were fine but I will say that as the island currently stands it is at a high risk. My point in sharing the story will be in the hope that the Nicaraguan government will do more to enlist security measures on this island and that those that operate tourist operations on the island fully educate and inform people that solo travelling there as a female currently has risk and to buddy up when exploring the island.
    I do not want to discourage travelling solo as a female but I cannot ignore the truth of what I experienced there and what I know has happened there. I hope this island will change in due course and the necessary security measures are put in place to protect women travelling on their own.

    Reply
  4. Monica

    Thank you for posting this story. I’m sorry you had this experience. I had an experience on Little Corn Island in 2015 in which a man called Muerte (Death) chased me down the same trail you were on. It sounds like it may be the same guy. He wasn’t masturbating or exposing himself, but I heard that was his usual M.O. I also heard from 2 separate women in my hotel that he was seen masturbating, and he also chased one of the women. Keep in mind, I was on Little Corn for only 4 days. I heard from locals that in the past, he has attempted to rape a young girl and that he is “crazy”, “has been kicked off the island”, and “is not right.” Fortunately, I saw a local man and woman on the trail and they yelled at him. He stopped and ran the other way. The man accompanied me to the police and on the way, other locals joined us. Everyone seemed very angry about it and supportive. At the police station, Muerte’s mother showed up and apparently he escaped his home 2 days prior. It was a very bizarre experience. She basically came to the conclusion that he probably wanted to rob me. I was not being flashy and simply had an old backpack with sunscreen and a book. I heard they got him, but after, when he was on “house arrest”, he was seen masturbating in the yard near a beach (one of the other 2 Muerte sightings that I previously mentioned). The following day, while I was waiting for the boat back to Big Corn, the police brought a man in handcuffs to the boat. Another local was yelling to him and everyone that he had raped a woman the previous night. The man was not Muerte, but someone else. So, in a span of 4 days, on an island that is 1.1 square miles with a population of 1200, there was a man masturbating and chasing women (at least once simultaneously) and another man raped a woman. The victim had to ride the same boat back to Big Corn with her rapist. I am a huge advocate of solo woman travel, but I say skip Little Corn Island unless you are with a companion. Even then, I would still avoid it. There are plenty of beautiful islands to see in the world.

    Reply
    1. Girl about the Globe Post author

      Hi Monica, thanks so much for sharing this. I’m so sorry about your experience too and am glad that you are okay. You’re so right about skipping the island unless you’re with someone else x

      Reply

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