The Fallacy of Passively Resisting a Rapist

I’m not sure who started this trend but some asshole decided it was a good idea to advise woman to “passively” resist rapists. That advice follows the “just give them what they want and they’ll go away” mentality except in the case of rape what your attacker wants is you. I use the word passive in quotes because passive resistance isn’t resistance in the case of rape. When you become passive you’re still surrendering and once you’ve surrendered control to an attacker you’re situation is entirely lost. A friend on Facebook posted a link to a research paper titled Fighting back works: The case for advocating and teaching self-defense against rape.. The most interesting statement I found in the study was the following:

A thorough review of the available literature has led us to some surprising conclusions about the effectiveness of traditional anti-rape advice. Women are often advised to use non-aggressive strategies against sexual assault (Storaska, 1975; Channing L. Bete Co., What every woman should know about rape, 1989; Channing L. Bete Co., What women and men should know about date rape, 1989). Research suggests that this is poor advice. According to one study (Zoucha-Jensen and Coyne, 1993), women who used non-forceful verbal strategies, such as crying or pleading with the assailant, were raped about 96% of the time. In the same study, women who did nothing to protect themselves were raped about 93% of the time.

“Passive” resistance actually slightly increased a woman’s chance of being raped. To me this makes sense as rape is about power, not sex. By crying and pleading you’re giving the rapist what he wants, which is to break your will and force you to submit to him. On the other hand bullet holes, stab woulds, and/or a collapse trachea are great at stopping a rapist. In fact forceful physical resistance has the best chance of stopping a rapist:

Forceful physical resistance was an extremely successful strategy. The completed rape rate dropped to between 45% and 14% when the rapist’s attempt was met with violent physical force (Kleck and Sayles, 1990; Siegel et al., 1989; Ullman and Knight, 1992; Zoucha-Jensen and Coyne, 1993). Striking was more successful than pushing or wrestling (Quinsey and Upfold, 1985). Physical resistance also appears to be more effective when assault occurs outdoors (Quinsey and Upfold, 1985).

That’s a pretty large drop from the 96% of completed rapes followed by passive verbal resistance. On top of that women who forcefully resist a rapist stand little chance of additional injury:

Second, this argument overlooks the fact that a woman who does not resist is virtually guaranteed to suffer the emotional and physical injury of the rape itself. Even when resisters are injured, the injury is typically much less severe than a completed rape would have been (Kleck and Sayles, 1990; Marchbanks et al., 1990; Siegel et al., 1989; Ullman and Knight, 1991). Of those 40% of resisters who suffered physical damage, only 7% suffered injury as severe as a dislodged tooth. A woman who fights back incurs no demonstrable chance of additional injury, but she gains a 55-86% chance of avoiding rape altogether (Kleck and Sayles, 1990).

The last sentence is most telling, while a woman’s chance of injury goes up negligibly her chance of getting raped dropped dramatically. In addition the physical and emotional damage done by rape is almost always going to be far greater than damage received during forceful resistance. Did I mention woman who used firearms or knives stood a phenomenal chance of avoiding a rape:

Women who used knives or guns in self-defense were raped less than 1% of the time. Defensive use of edged or projectile weapons reduced the rate of injury to statistical insignificance (Kleck and Sayles, 1990).

As I said bullet holes and stab wounds are very good deterrents.

Self-defense classes are invaluable not just for the training in proper fighting methods but for mentally preparing people for self-defense situations. Many people do freeze up when they’re being attacked because they’ve never been taught the proper actions to take in such a scenario. Being able to fight back is only one part of the battle, you must also be willing to fight back.

If you’re one of those unfortunate people who believes passive resistance is the best way to handle a rape situation please do yourself a favor and read the linked paper.