Certain Self-Defense Actions Can Decrease Risk

In a 2005 report commissioned by NIJ, researchers examined a variety of sexual assaults and other physical assaults against women. The study did not focus specifically on college students. The researchers found that potential rape victims who resisted their attackers physically and verbally significantly reduced the probability that a rape would be completed and did not significantly increase the risk of serious injury.

Most self-protective actions significantly reduce the risk that a rape will be completed. In particular, certain actions reduce the risk of rape more than 80 percent compared to nonresistance. The most effective actions, according to victims, are attacking or struggling against their attacker, running away, and verbally warning the attacker.  

In assaults against women, most self-protective tactics reduced the risk of injury compared to nonresistance. According to the researchers, the only self-protective tactics that appear to increase the risk of injury significantly were those that are ambiguous and not forceful. These included stalling, cooperating and screaming from pain or fear.

A separate study found that even when a rape was completed, women who used some form of resistance had better mental health outcomes than those who did not resist.[1]

Law enforcement officials, however, counsel caution against automatically using violence or other forms of resistance. People who are assaulted are advised to assess the situation and trust their own judgment about the best way to respond.

Notes

[1]Ullman, S.E., "Rape avoidance: Self-protection strategies for women." In Schewe, P.A. (Ed.). Preventing violence in relationships: Interventions across the life span. (pp. 137-162). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2002.

Date Created: October 1, 2008