Robert Emond, On Rape
Robert Emond, On Rape
CS> Woman who've been raped often voice a feeling (Donna has said it
CS> here in the Echo): "I'm NOT going through this again." In other
CS> words, it would be better to be dead than to go along in any way
CS> shape or form.
Studies (Bart and O'Brien 1985;Burghess 1988), have shown that
several women who avoided rape, used the emotion of, "I'm NOT going
through this again" to generate anger and inner strength to avoid a
second rape. Also many of the avoiders had the attitude of, "I'm not
going to let this happen in the first place". Women who were
preoccupied with being killed or maimed were also found to be less
likely to avoid rape.
CS> (I can certainly indentify with the feeling, but is it really
CS> better to be dead? I may have to file this under feelings I can
CS> never grok.)
I don't think it's a question of better to be dead than raped, but
one of better to die trying to maintain your personal freedom and
sovereignty over your body than just giving in. Some people (myself
included) may think it is better to go down fighting even if it will
get them killed, when they would not die otherwise. As an example,
would you live in a state of slavery, where you were forced to obey
your master, but otherwise will be alive, or might you prefer to die
trying to gain freedom?
D> However, just to throw my own pennies into the pot: it has often
D> bugged me that "NEVER fight back" was the advice of the day for
D> rape victims
P. Bart and P. O'Brien in _Stopping Rape_ 1985:
"We know that advice about how to behave when attacked, advice
telling women to act in traditionally feminine ways, is wrong.
[Researchers] have stated that women have a trained inability to
avoid rape because of the female socialization to be victims. Women
are taught to equate physical fighting with unfeminine behavior and
to believe that they do not need to learn to take care of themselves
because a man will. But from whom will men protect them? From other
men, of course. This is the biggest protection racket in the world,
according to the philosopher Susan Rae Peterson."
D> Of course, some rape victims are the types of people who wouldn't
D> fight back anyway.
Bart and O'Brien found that women who avoided rape were more
likely to have been involved in childhood contact sports. More
pertinent they found that 50% of the women who avoided rape were
involved in sports as adults, while 25% of the raped women were
involved in adult sports. The reasons why this is true are unknown,
however, they say, "Women should know that regular participation in
sports may provide them with skills that decrease their chance of
Another factor is childhood expectations. Forty percent of the
women who were raped ,"envisioned a future of domesticity, one in
which they would be married and have children", while only 14% of the
rape avoiders mentioned this "American Dream". They were more likely
to speak of jobs, careers, and education.
Other factors are beyond a woman's control. For instance women
5'7" or taller were more likely to be rape avoiders. In fact two
women 5'7" or more fought off armed attacker who attacked them in
their sleep! Being the eldest daughter also seems to be a predictor
of a rape avoider. Rape avoiders also tended to have mothers who had
a college education, particularly post grad. education. While rape
victims' fathers had high school or less. The avoider's or victim's
education had no statistical bearing. Finally there were six
lesbians, only one of whom was raped, but that is such a small number
that no certain statistical correlation can be made.
D> Unfortunately for who-knows-how-many-women (at least) WHO MIGHT
D> NOT HAVE BEEN RAPED if they hadn't listened to the "experts" about
D> "NEVER fight back", the advice was groundless, the "experts" were
Now experts as well as statistics show that rape is avoidable.
Marchbank et al. in _Risk of Injury from Resisting Rape_ in the
American Journal of Epidemiology vol 132(3) 1990 540-9 have compiled
interesting statistics from the National Crime Survey. They found
that women who use physical or verbal methods to resist rape were 1/3
as likely to be raped as women who did not. However, if the rape did
occur and the victim used force, she was 2.7 times more likely to be
injured, but only 1.2 times more likely to *require* medical
Bart and O'Brien Break the rape avoidance strategies into
categories: Flee or attempt to flee, scream/yell, physical force,
cognitive verbal (reasoning, conning,etc.), affective verbal
(pleading,etc.), environmental intervention, and no strategy. They
found that women who used physical force with any other strategy
increased their chance to avoid rape (no women used force alone).
None of the women who used three or four of the strategies were
raped. Some women used an immediate physical response as well as
screaming. "These women were not only angry but ENRAGED at their
attacker for daring to intrude on their space. They believed that he
did not have a right to assault them. Unfortunately, not all women
in this society have enough self-esteem to feel ENTITLED to their
space and to feel that unwanted touching is 'just not permissible'".
Other women attempted to talk the attacker out of it, or used the
talking to avoid physical injury. They then proceeded at opportune
times to use physical force, to complete their escape.
Still other women used force and when that failed used verbal
skills escape. One woman convinced her assailant that she was a
karate expert. Other women stalled by talking. One woman, "unable to
escape by the use of force, convinced the man who was trying to rape
her that she wanted to get to know him better before they had sex and
talked him into going to a restaurant for a milkshake". Needless to
say she was able to escape once at the restaurant.
Seventeen of twenty women whose first strategy was to flee avoided
rape. This was the most effective single strategy, however, it was
also the least used first strategy. In some cases this can be
because of the situation i.e. trapped or cornered. However, other
women considering flight thought of it as an admission of defeat and
attempted other strategies first.
Bart and O'Brien's book is excellent, and I highly recommend it to
anyone at all interested in avoiding rape, but it is not the only
source on rape avoidance. Victim Response Strategies in Sexual
Assault by D. Carter et al. in _Rape and Sexual Assault II_ edited by
Ann Wolbert Burgess, has it's own rape avoidance plan broken down
The goal is to escape from the aggressor. If there is no
immediate possibility to flee proceed to step 1. Step 1 is firm
verbal confrontation. Yell, "leave me alone! Get away!". This loud
yelling may deter some rapists, it also helps to attract attention.
If step 1 is unsuccessful in deterring the assault step 2 is
physical confrontation. Immediately take the offense with moderate
physical aggression punch, kick, struggle,etc. They point out that the
victim must assess the situation, her physical ability, presence of
weapons, etc. They point out that violence begets violence, so if
the physical struggle does not work proceed to step 3.
Step 3 is nonconfrontative verbal response. They say you should
try to make the attacker see you as a real person. Or challenge his
fantasy that you want to have sex with him, or that you are the
person he wants to harm, "I'm a total stranger. Why do you want to
hurt me?". You can also try stall for time or try to get him to take
you to a public place. This works as a woman in the Bart and O'Brien
study was able to get her assailant to take her for a milkshake, she
If step 3 does not convince the assailant to stop, or if it does
not give you an opportunity to escape, it may lesson the amount of
physical harm you suffer. They also have step 4 as a last resort.
Extreme aggression. All the dirty fighting tricks you know.
Unfortunately they don't mention any dirty tricks to go along with
the usual punching and kicking. However I'll mention two dirty
tricks I know. One good trick is biting. Biting the assailant's
ears, nose, or fingers is highly effective. Bite as hard as you can,
if you are resorting to biting that is no time for squeamishness.
Spitting is also another good trick. Spit into the assailant's eyes.
If he does not immediately let go or loosen his grip, continue to
spit into his eye, as this will be very distracting.
Both studies show that women can increase their chance of avoiding
rape by using verbal and physical skills. Both studies show that
women who just go along per conventional wisdom will be raped. They
also show that pleading does not work very well. Of course every
situation is different, and there can be no advice that is guaranteed
to work in all cases. Every person who is sexually assaulted will
have to weigh their options when determining how to respond. The
best defense is being aware of dangerous situations and avoiding
them. Also learning self-defense will give you the skills and the
confidence to avoid or repel attackers.
1. Stopping Rape, P Bart and P. O'Brien 1985.
2. Risk of Injury from Resisting Rape, Marchbank et al. American
Journal of Epidemiology vol 132(3) 1990 540-9.
3. Victim Response Strategies in Sexual Assault, D Carter et al. Rape
and Sexual Assault II ed. Ann Burgess 1988.