These are the strategies that most women have been taught to consider, if they find themselves in a confrontation with a rapist
The first and most crucial fact that all women must understand, is that if you don’t have any strategies to use in this type of confrontation, you will almost certainly end up a victim.
If you haven’t got any strategies, you’ll very likely “freeze” or go into shock, and then the only thing that will save you is if someone stumbles upon the scene, and scares the attacker away.
This emphasizes the importance of deciding ahead of time, what you’ll do, if you ever find yourself in this kind of situation.
Which resistance strategy will you use?
Making these decisions NOW, will give you the confidence to act on them later.
The second important factor to remember is: the sooner you respond the better.
Women who escaped from their attackers reacted immediately, within the first 30 seconds. They didn’t wait around for a “better time” later.
Your first strategy should always be to immediately run away from your assailant. A study found that 85% of women who ran away, or attempted to run away, successfully avoided being raped.
It seems so obvious, right?
Yet running away tends to be the least used strategy by women.
First of all, many women have never considered beforehand, what they would do, if they find themselves under attack. These women are so unprepared, they go into shock, and miss the initial opportunity to run.
Many other women decide they won’t run, because they believe that they have no chance of outrunning a man. They don’t realize that the attacker will probably decide not to chase them at all.
Remember, these guys are looking for “easy victims”. They don’t want a lot of trouble.
And there are some women who believe they shouldn’t run – that running from a stranger in their home, for example, is an admission of defeat.
Forget that belief. The fact is, getting away from an attacker, no matter how you do it, is a victory.
Finally, many women are intimidated if the assailant shows, or threatens to pull out a weapon. Almost all “stranger” rapists threaten that they have a weapon, but in fact, only 15% actually do.
Keep in mind that you should never believe anything an attacker might tell you.
All criminals are liars. All of these men will say anything at all, in order to get control over you.
Clifford Olson is a stark reminder of how men will say anything at all to lure unsuspecting young women to do what he wants to do. He is probably Canada’s most infamous serial killer.
Olson died in prison in 2011, while serving a life sentence for the murders of 11 young people.
Olson frequently used a fake Identification Card, as part of an abduction strategy, where he would offer potential victims a summer job. Olson would stand outside the Canadian Manpower Youth Employment Centre looking for vulnerable teenagers hustling for work.
Claiming to be a construction contractor, he would hand the victim an impressive, but phony business card. Olson would tell his victim that he had a big contract at a nearby ski resort, and if she was interested, he’d hire her to shampoo carpets for a very high hourly rate.
He would then offer to drive her up to the nearby resort to see the work site.
Most teens, unwilling to pass up such a good job opportunity, would agree to accompany Olson. Then somewhere along the route, he’d pull over and rape the victim, sometimes killing her.
Clifford Olson used to brag about how naïve and trusting teenagers were, if you just promised them a job. Remember, all criminals are liars.
Women can sometimes find themselves in vulnerable situations when they’re looking for work.
Be alert, be careful, and listen to your intuition if it’s telling you not to do something.
Unfortunately many women feel stupid if they “give in” to their intuition. Don’t make that mistake. Your intuition is a survival signal; always respect it.
For example, if your intuition is telling you not to get into an elevator with a stranger, DON’T GET IN.
After all, what sounds more stupid to you? Waiting an extra minute for another elevator, or getting in a soundproof, steel chamber with a man you’re afraid of?
Another way a rape can be avoided is when a stranger stumbles upon the crime scene and intervenes to help the victim. This will almost certainly stop the attack.
Remember that these predators don’t want to get caught. They will almost certainly run away.
However, outside intervention is largely a case of luck. A defender can increase her luck, though, by yelling, and keeping her eyes open for people that might be able to help.
Let’s talk about verbal strategies.
While a woman’s best weapon is her mind, her first weapon is her voice.
Unlike screaming, which only conveys to your attacker that you’re afraid, yelling expresses anger, and generates power and force.
Not only will yelling attract the attention of others, but it will also intimidate your assailant. As well, yelling will pump up your adrenaline making you better able to defend yourself, or run away.
It’s better to yell commands such as “NO”, “BACK OFF” or “GET AWAY”.
Yelling these kinds of comments conveys the message to your attacker that you’re not going to be an “easy victim”.
Yelling this at your attacker surprises him. And it’s the last thing he wants to hear.
It destroys any fantasy he has that you’re going to be an “easy victim” who he can exercise power and control over. Instead, he realizes that he’s up against a very aggressive defender.
Many women believe that swearing at your attacker will make him even angrier. This is very seldom the case. Swearing at your assailant may save your life.
As I’ve said elsewhere in these articles, go into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and yell, “Get your fucking hands off me” as loud as you can. You will actually scare yourself, but you will also have harnessed the power you have to intimidate and scare others.
For most women, this is a decision that should be made in advance.
You must envision this frightening scenario, and work out a strategy ahead of time, of how to get away. Then, if the worst happens and you’re attacked, instead of shock, your brain will respond with your predetermined plan of action.
Begging and pleading with your attacker, in an attempt to gain his sympathy, is extremely unlikely to be effective.
Attackers generally expect their victims to cry.
Pleading with a rapist simply gives him exactly what he wants, a victim who acknowledges his ability to dominate. These guys mostly crave power and control. Why would the guy quit while he’s ahead?
Don’t play into his game. Always make it as difficult as you can for him.
An equally bad strategy is to tell your attacker that you’ve got your period, or you’re pregnant, or you’ve got AIDS, or cancer.
Not only are rapists not concerned about the victim’s health or well-being, but they are unlikely to believe these kinds of stories. In fact they expect to hear this kind of lie.
There is one kind of lie you can tell your attacker that can sometimes be very effective. That’s the comment that you’re expecting someone at any minute.
This will make him fearful that he might get caught, particularly if you’re also putting up resistance.
The key to telling this kind of lie effectively is to say it assertively.
And to say it assertively, you have to have thought about it ahead of time, and decided to include it as one of your defensive strategies. You should practice the line out loud, so your brain remembers it.
“You better get out of here. My boyfriend's going to be here any second now.”
Having these kinds of lines prepared in advance, can help to save your life.
These days, many women are travelling all over the world, often alone.
Andrei Chikatilo was Russia’s most famous serial killer.
Through the 1980s, Chikatilo killed 52 victims, most of them young women or girls. The technique he used for abducting women, could be used anywhere in the world.
Chikatilo spent a great deal of time hanging around train stations.
His targets were young women travelling alone, who appeared to be “new in town”, and unfamiliar with their surroundings. He would offer to assist these women with directions, or in finding transportation.
This was his pretest - he was testing his potential victims.
A harmless approach to see if he could manipulate these women into easy victims.
His mild appearance and easy-going manner usually won the trust of his victims. He would offer to escort them to a nearby bus stop, along a special short-cut he knew, from which none of these women ever returned alive.
If you’re a woman travelling alone, never go anywhere with a man who approaches you. He has picked you out.
What are his motives?
Your best bet, always, if you need help, is for you to approach someone yourself, preferably someone employed at the train station, and preferably a woman.
A final type of verbal strategy is when a woman tries to reason with her attacker, by trying to make him see her as a “real person”. She might say:
“I’m a total stranger. Why do you want to hurt me? I’ve never done anything to hurt you.”
Women should avoid saying things like “What if I was your daughter or your sister?”
Because the victim doesn’t know what relationship these family members might have with the attacker – usually bad.
The important thing to remember is that verbal reasoning strategies are extremely unlikely, in themselves, to prevent rape. You are highly unlikely to succeed in talking the attacker out of raping you.
This type of strategy can be successful however, as a stalling tactic.
The dialogue may allow time for a bystander to intervene, or for the victim to get into a better position to be able to escape.
Another type of strategy involves faking an illness.
These types of responses include; fainting, throwing up, loosing bodily control (wetting yourself), or pretending to have a seizure.
These responses may work very occasionally, but generally they’re considered unreliable, and sometimes can even be dangerous.
Remember this is a crime about power and control – not sex.
What would “turn off” a normal man, won’t work with most rapists. Many would consider a woman who faints as the perfect victim.
The final and often the most effective strategy is using physical force.
Physical force can range from;
While size and strength may be important in weight-lifting, it’s not in so important in self-defense.
Self-defense is not a fair fight. There are no rules. There are no illegal target areas.
You don’t have to be a karate expert to physically stop your attacker. One well placed kick, or elbow will do the job. The defender’s only concern is to inflict as much pain as possible in order to escape. The goal is to run away.
However if you are going to kick or strike your attacker, you have to be 100% committed. On a scale of 1 – 10, you have to fight at level 10 every time.
The key to maximizing that amount of damage you can do to your assailant is to remember the “Two Inch Rule” (five cm). Always aim your blows two inches beneath the surface of the skin. If you can continue the momentum and the force of your swing two inches beneath the surface, you’ll cause much more pain and damage.
And every time you hit him, yell “No!” as loud as you can.
This is important. It will surprise him, and threaten to attract the attention of others.
It will help you breathe, while channeling your fear into anger. And finally, it will keep your adrenaline up, and generate more power for you.
Many women are reluctant to hit their attacker, because they fear that it will make him more violent.
This is extremely unlikely.
Studies have shown that attackers determine how violent they will be beforehand, and the response of the victim will not result in more violence than was originally planned.
To respond with physical force, whether it’s resisting and struggling to get free, or it’s shoving your car keys into his eyes, you have to have determined beforehand that you’re willing to use force if necessary.
Creative new thoughts will not come to you in a crisis. You’ll freeze, without a plan.
Plan ahead. Visualize yourself resisting and escaping.
Although your attacker may be bigger than you, he may be totally unprepared for fighting, and unskilled in fighting. After all, this is a guy who is a proven coward, going around attacking women, so he can experience some feeling of power and control.
He wants the rape to be easy for him.
He doesn’t want to get hurt, and he doesn’t want to get caught. If he realizes he’s picked a woman who’s not going to be an “easy victim” he will usually abandon the attempt, and move on to somebody else.
We have reviewed a wide range of possible strategies that a woman can use if she ever comes face to face with a potential rapist. A few of these strategies work, but most don’t.
Another thing we discovered in our research is that women who were able to avoid being raped, consistently used more resistance strategies than women who were victims.
In other words, women who escaped used two, and sometimes, three strategies.
All of our research has shown that the best two strategies to use are; yelling and swearing, and physical force.
The other key factor is: always to respond immediately, within the first thirty seconds.
If you think your life is in danger, always call the emergency services whenever possible.
This information is intended for guidance only. Use your own judgement in each situation.
It is impossible to describe a 'common' rape. Each rapist operates in an individual way, and women need to be aware of a variety of techniques to help themselves in a rape situation. There is no one answer to assure safety.
Please bear in mind that these safety tips were designed for Canadian citizens and advice will vary in different situations and locations. Always use your own local knowledge of your region in applying the safety tips.
Rape: Psychology, Prevention and Impact - by Marcia Cohen and Sherrie H. McKenna - Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
Rape and Sexual Assault - by Dean G. Kilpatrick, Ph.D. - National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center - Medical University of South Carolina