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Rape: Psychology, Prevention and Impact

Marcia Cohen and Sherrie H. McKenna

Contents of Curriculum Unit 81.03.06:

To Guide Entry


The word “rape” is derived from the Latin “rapere” meaning to “steal, seize or carry away”. Rape is the oldest means by which a man seized or stole a wife. A man simply took whichever woman he wanted, raped her, and then brought her to his tribe as his possession. The American Heritage Dictionary defines rape as “The crime of forcing a female to submit to sexual intercourse.” And the legal definition is “carnal knowledge through the use of force or threat of force” according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. All three definitions describe a violent infringement on the personal dignity of an individual.

“During the first four months of 1981, 31 rapes were reported in New Haven. That’s one rape every 4 days.”1

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We elected to write a curriculum unit on rape because we see that our students’ lives are often touched by violence. Students, as well as adults, frequently have distorted perceptions regarding both the rape victim and the rapist. Our primary objective in the presentation of this material is to sensitize students to the emotional and physical trauma suffered by the rape victim. Students have verbalized that a rape is often the woman’s fault and that she really wanted it to happen. Others view rape as “just having sex” with a stranger and fail to realize the humiliation involved or the fact that rape often occurs when the rapist is someone with whom the victim is acquainted.

Since the early 1970s and the resurgence of the women’s movement, there have been several excellent studies and books published on rape. These contain a multitude of case studies and interviews with actual rape victims. In addition to the information we have presented here, we urge teachers to read some of these first-person accounts in order to better understand the complexities of rape.

Rape is a woman’s issue because, except in those rare instances of homosexual rape, it is the woman who is the victim. However, it is a man’s issue too, because women who have been raped need the support and understanding of all those around them including their fathers, brothers, husbands, and friends.

Feminist writers see rape as an extension of a male-dominated society’s control over females. Since the Stone Age, women have been viewed as possessions of first their fathers, and then of their husbands. In the Old Testament, we are told “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife . . . , nor anything that is thy neighbors.” (Exodus 20: 17).

Little girls are taught to be passive and little boys to be aggressive. When these stereotypes become extended to our sexual roles, some people feel that women want to be sexually dominated by men, and that men have the right to demand sexual compliance from any female.

We intend this unit to provide information on rape as a crime of violence, but we hope to go beyond that and raise the consciousness of those who believe that men are free to demand sexual favors from women.

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The raping of women is a crime on the increase in the United States. It is a crime that is often misunderstood and surrounded by myths. It is our goal to dissect some aspects of this insidious act and share some of the more recently discovered facts.

One commonly believed myth is that rape is primarily a sexual act. Persons with this belief often unintentionally place the victim on trial. Her motives, her dress and her actions become suspect not only to law enforcement officials but also to her family and friends. The woman’s credibility may be questioned and her sexual activity and private life may be made public. Perhaps because of the guilt, embarrassment and humiliation, rape has been a highly underreported crime. However, throughout the past 20 years a variety of psychologists and sociologists have begun to study the psychology of rape and rapists. Their findings have shown that rape is a crime of violence, often regarded by the woman as a life-threatening act in which fear and humiliation are her dominant emotions. Sexual desire is less a motivation for the man than violent aggression.

Rape as a crime of violence is perhaps best understood by examining studies of the rapist, who he is and why he does it. However, it is somewhat disconcerting. Research by Amir in the 60’s and 70’s indicates that rapists are not the psychopathic, antisocial men one would think them to be.2 There are of course the extreme individuals, but most rapists blend well into their own communities. In fact, there may be more similarities between rapists and ourselves then there are differences. However, research on the rapist is subject to serious questions. The sampling of subjects are often full of bias. Most rape arrests still do not result in conviction. Therefore the men who are interviewed represent a very small percentage of the entire rapist population. Since the sampling pool is so limited, the conclusions drawn from such studies must be viewed cautiously. With that in mind, the findings of research by Dr. Menachiam Amir, an Israeli criminologist, and the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice will be presented.3

Dr. Amir studied rape and rapists in Philadelphia between 1958 and 1960. He found the median age of the Philadelphia rapist was 23 but the largest age group among rapists was the 15-19 year olds. Amir found most rapists were unmarried, however that could be due to their young age. He also found that the older the rapist the younger the victim. According to Amir most rapists were at the lower end of the economic scale and about half had previous arrest records. However, few of their prior arrests were for sex offenses. Amir also found that more than half the rapes took place on the weekends with Saturday being the peak day. Again almost half were committed between 8:00 P.M. and 2:00 A.M. Further, approximately 71% of the rapes were planned. The choice of victim was often left to chance and circumstance, but the rapist set out to rape someone. Planning is even more prevalent in pair or gang rapes.

The National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice examined the characteristics and behaviors of rapists in 5 cities during the mid 1980s: Seattle, Detroit, Kansas City, New Orleans and Phoenix. There were several similarities between their findings and Amir’s. Both found minority males were overrepresented; that most victims tended to be under 30 years old; and most rapists did some planning before the rape occurred, Amir however found 43% of the rapes involved more than one offender. The Institute found an overwhelming majority of rapes were committed by a single individual. The use of weapons varied from city to city but were used in approximately half the assaults.5

Offenders interviewed by members of the Institute at a maximum security state mental hospital believed that the prevention or avoidance of rape was the responsibility of the women. Their advice, perhaps sexist, nonetheless advised women not to go out alone, not to hitchhike, not to drink alone and to learn self defense.

In conclusion, most of what is currently known about rape and the rapist has been found in police blotter statistics. The whys of the crime are still being investigated. Amir theorized rapists fell into 2 categories which he labeled “criminal” and “psychiatric”. The criminal rapist he viewed as a poorly educated man from the lower socioeconomic level who had a criminal record of offenses such as exhibitionism, fetishism, etc. He saw him as generally antisocial and easily influenced by his peers. The psychiatric rapist was viewed as a well educated man from a higher economic bracket. He was believed to rape because of some personal problems or inadequacy and he may feel remorse after the assault. However, these are not generally accepted theories but are considered a stepping stone to more indepth research. A more widely accepted theory is that most rapists seem to come from a subculture of violence whose values may be different from those of the dominant culture. Therefore these adolescents and young men may be demonstrating their toughness and masculinity in a more violent and antisocial manner.

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Women, both young and old, generally believe that they could fight off a rapist. Unfortunately, few women give much thought to how they would do this other than believing they could stop him by kicking him in the genitals. Indeed, this may be guide unrealistic since males are taught at a young age to protect their genitals and doing so becomes almost instinctual. Women tend to be shorter and physically less strong than males and forcefully striking a man in the groin with a knee or foot is not always possible. What then is a woman to do?

The first step in preventing any crime is to avoid placing oneself in a vulnerable position. Women should avoid walking alone at night, keep car doors locked, check the back seat of the car when getting in, and if giving directions to someone, maintain a distance between oneself and the stranger’s car. Hitchhiking and admitting strangers to one’s home should be avoided always. If a repairman is expected, it is a good idea to have more than one person at home.

There are available in many communities self-defense classes, rape prevention courses, and brochures provided by police, insurance companies, and rape crisis centers which intend to help women avoid rape. These often consist of lists of prevention techniques some of which we have mentioned above. However, 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. Suppose a woman, in spite of taking care not to place herself in a vulnerable position, finds herself face to face with a man threatening rape. What alternatives does she have?

One possibility is to talk her way out of the situation. Some women have turned a rapist off by saying they were menstruating, pregnant, or had a venereal disease. Others have surprised their attackers with some repulsive physical act such as vomiting, urinating, defecating, belching or fainting.

Behaving in a friendly, solicitous manner and gaining a potential rapist’s confidence has been used successfully by some women. Complimenting him and appearing to go along with his advances will sometimes cause the rapist to relax and perhaps give the woman an opportunity to escape. However, for some rapists, such behavior may be encouraging.

Verbal self defense may be effective with many potential rapists. To succeed in talking one’s way out of a sexual assault, a woman must have confidence in herself and her ability to gain control of a situation. Often though, a woman does not have the opportunity to use her verbal skills or she finds that words have not worked in dissuading the rapist.

Physical self defense is an option with which some women may never feel comfortable. Electing to submit to a rapist, rather than risk injury or even death is a legitimate choice. Females have been taught from birth not to fight or even rough house, and therefore, find physical resistance impossible.

If a woman chooses to defend herself by force, she must be certain that she can hurt a man badly enough to stop him—merely inflicting pain is not sufficient. The nose, eyes, and throat are particularly vulnerable and susceptible to pain, whereas striking a man on the arm or head is virtually useless. Self defense classes teach people to use the weapons that are at their disposal always—their hands and feet, and of course, their voices. Women who carry cans of mace or sharp objects do not always have them available when they are needed. Self defense and martial arts classes increase one’s self confidence as well as one’s ability to defend oneself, and women should consider enrolling in such a course.

Children and adults of all ages need to be taught to feel positive about themselves. A positive self image will go a long way in helping a person defend herself against a sexual assault.

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Rape is probably the most underreported crime in the United States. In a Department of Justice report on forcible rape published in 1978, it was estimated that only one-fifth of all rapes are ever reported to the police.6

Why do so many women choose to remain silent after being sexually assaulted? To answer that question, one should look at the three institutions with which she will come into contact: the police, the hospital, and the courts.

Police. In most locations the patrol officer on call will respond to a complaint by a rape victim. This officer has probably had little, if any, training in dealing with rape. Later, the case is referred to an investigator who most likely works with all types of assaults. In some cities, female police officers are used to investigate rape cases; however, most investigations are still conducted by males.

Unfortunately, many police officers are antagonistic toward the female rape victim. They may feel embarrassed themselves at having to question a woman about a sexual assault. Very often police questioning focuses on the woman having “brought on the attack” herself by her dress, her inviting a man to her house, accepting a ride from a man, going to a bar unescorted, or by her past sexual experiences. The officer may dwell on the sexual aspect of the rape, asking her to describe her feelings during the attack, the rapist’s genitals, or the position in which he raped her. Fortunately, in many areas of the country police departments are establishing special rape units and training police to work with rape victims.

The Hospital. Whether or not a rape victim intends to report an attack to the police, she should obtain medical care. When a woman who has been raped arrives at a hospital, medical personnel have a two-fold responsibility. They must treat the patient and also provide evidence for the police that a rape did occur.

In addition to checking a victim’s entire body for injury, a doctor should explain to her when she must return for pregnancy and venereal disease tests. A doctor will check for the presence of semen in the vagina as well as on other parts of her body and clothes. A rape victim should not wash herself before going to the hospital, and her clothing should be made available for the investigation. Doctors in hospital emergency rooms, where most rape victims are taken, do not always react sympathetically. Here, too, women frequently report they are subjected to hostile and irrelevant questions.

The Courts. A woman may report an assault to the police but choose not to press charges. However, if she does decide to file a complaint and the rapist is arrested, she may come to feel that she, not the rapist, is the person on trial. With few exceptions, statements by these victims describe their court experiences as unpleasant and difficult.

While the police and medical personnel often subject a rape victim to unfair questions, in the courtroom she must endure even more. Rape is defined as a crime against the state, and the victim is a “witness” for the prosecution. She may choose to have her own attorney, but that person only serves as an advisor; the court appoints the prosecutor over whom she will have no control.

The victim will often be attacked by the defense attorney on three major issues. (1) Consent. How much did she resist? Many rapists have been released on the grounds that a rape did not occur because the victim did not struggle. In no other crime would this issue be raised. If a person is robbed, she is not expected to resist the robber and refuse to surrender her money.

(2) Corroboration. A few states still require that another witness testify that the rape took place or that there is some evidence such as the victim’s injuries or the presence of semen. If the victim was not harmed or she delayed reporting the rape so that the semen had disappeared, there would be no physical evidence and the case might be dismissed. Going back to our robbery, one does not have to prove that she was carrying a wallet in order to charge someone with theft.

(3) Chastity. The victim’s past sexual behavior is often presented as evidence on behalf of the defendant. Testimony by a rape victim who admits to having sexual relations with someone to whom she is not married is used as proof that she is immoral and therefore, she is likely to have consented to intercourse. Conversely, the past crimes of the defendant are not admissible as evidence.

Acquittals in jury trials have been based on the admission by the victim that she had gone to a bar alone, that she was hitchhiking, that she showed no evidence of physical abuse, that she was dressed seductively, and that jury members found her unattractive (thus, why would anyone rape her?)

Looking at the number of people with whom a woman may have to speak in filing charges and the insensitive treatment she may receive, one can understand why some women who have reported a rape feel as though they have been raped a second time. There is usually a great deal of emotional conflict involved in making the decision to press charges or not. On the one hand, the woman may feel anger and want to see the rapist captured and punished; on the other, she may feel so humiliated that she does not wish to recount the details of the rape to the police.

Since the mid-1970s, many states have reexamined their laws regarding rape. While more changes are needed, the trend has been to revise rape statutes along the lines of other laws. That is, to define rape by degrees rather than as a single degree assault; to use threat of injury as proof that rape occurred rather than insisting that a woman must have suffered actual physical injury by resisting the rapist; and, in a few states, to restrict the discussion of the victim’s past sexual behavior and the need for corroboration by proof other than the victim’s testimony. This gradual change in the rape laws has been brought about by two opposite forces; the women’s movement and police, prosecutors, and legislators who want rape viewed as a law-and-order, not a feminist, issue.

Although not all police, hospital personnel, and attorneys are intent upon protecting the accused rapist by making the victim appear guilty, it is not surprising that many women either do not report a rape or withdraw the rape charge before it is brought to trial. Some areas allow rapes to be reported anonymously or accept information from a third party. This is sometimes helpful in providing data for the police who are looking for a particular offender. It also may alert the police to an area where additional police patrols are needed. Charges could, of course, not be filed in these cases, but women might choose this alternative if they were unwilling to expose themselves as rape victims. Some elect not to report a rape because they feel the rapist will not be apprehended or they do not wish to recount the circumstances of the attack to others.

Rape Crisis Centers. Perhaps more than with physical injuries, women need help with recovering from the emotional shock of a sexual assault. A growing number of rape crisis centers have begun to provide services for the rape victim. Their services may include a telephone answering line, group and individual counseling, escort service, self-defense classes, and women’s discussion groups. Since most of these centers have limited funds, they rely on volunteers to assist in their work.

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There are no easy answers when discussing how to help a woman who has been raped to cope with the trauma she has experienced. Doctors may heal the physical wounds but the emotional scars may be less visible and more difficult to treat. But they must be acknowledged before they can be integrated.

Immediately following a rape, most women are in a state of shock. They may or may not be physically injured but all have been through a life threatening situation and will need time and support to recover. Women may react differently to an assault. Some women may become hysterical while others go through a denial stage and appear calm and in control. The circumstances surrounding the rape may vary as well, but all victims feel varying degrees of fear, guilt, embarrassment and anger. These emotions will not surface all at once but will effect the woman for a long time after the attack. It is important for all those close to her, especially the men to understand her feelings and support her through the crisis.

The fear a woman feels may weave through all aspects of her life. More than likely she was attacked going about her business, feeling safe in her world. Once that security is invaded the woman may be fearful about the once routine activities of her daily life. She may approach strangers and even friends and acquaintances with a new caution.

A woman may feel guilt, wondering why she was the victim. She may question whether she really did “ask for it” or lead someone to the wrong impression. She may also be embarrassed about what other people think of her. These feelings may cause her to avoid sexual relationships for a time. And finally the anger that her personal freedom was violated and the man is walking around free takes over. Anger may take different forms but most psychologists feel that it is the emotion that can lead to a successful emotional recovery. It is at this stage that the woman wants to fight back and get her life in order. However there is the possibility this anger may be projected onto others not involved. Men need to be aware of the feelings a woman experiences. The woman who denies the event and says she’s OK needs the same kind of counseling and support as other women, perhaps more so as she is repressing her true feelings.

Men too react differently to the attack of a woman close to them. Some men are disgusted and repulsed by the thought of rape, while others are angry and may seek revenge. Still some men react with disinterest and view the rape as just another sexual event. They don’t see a need for a big fuss. All of these emotions must be recognized and discussed. A rape crisis center or counseling agency can often help people work through their feelings. Many centers have specific groups for adults, adolescents, and for parents of rape victims. These should be utilized to help ease and hasten the recovery of everyone involved.

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Molestation of children is a subject which most adults would prefer to ignore. Although both teachers and parents begin to instruct children at an early age of the dangers of matches, traffic, and poisons, we are loathe to mention the possibility of sexual abuse. “Don’t talk to, get in a car with, or take candy from strangers” is usually the extent of our warnings.

Being wary of strangers does not always protect a child. Unfortunately, those who sexually assault children are primarily men who are known to the child. A prominent study done in 1969 by the Children’s Division of the American Humane Society found that this was true in 75% of the sex crimes against children. This study used a sample of 250 cases reported in an eighteen month period in Brooklyn and the Bronx. (This sample was a small portion of the total reported cases since in one year over 1000 cases were reported in Brooklyn alone).

Because the offender is often a family member or friend, the reporting of child rape is a very sensitive issue. Children must depend on adults to report a rape to the police. The reaction of a parent to a child’s claim that she* has been molested is not always one of sympathy for the child. Some parents will punish a child, saying they misbehaved and brought on the attack themselves. For children, who are taught that adults are authority figures, placing the blame on themselves may be a common reaction. Some parents refuse to believe the child. They become angry and may even defend the attacker’s integrity. Many parents feel embarrassed for themselves and do not want others, including the police, to know that their child has been sexually assaulted.

In his essay on Femininity, Freud concluded that “Reports of childhood assault were fantasies that the child contrived as a defense against her own genital pleasure and her guilty wish to sleep with her father.” Many who followed Freud continued to blame the child and to describe the child rape victim as attractive, seductive, and/or charming. While young children may appear to behave in a seductive manner, they are usually seeking affection and attention. Not until puberty do youngsters “have conceptions of sexual responses and behavior that are analogous to those of adults.”7 It is possible, of course, to read of incidents of reported sexual molestations of children where the child has either fabricated or fantasized the assault.

*In the Humane Society study, 10 girls were molested for every 1 boy.

Feminist writers see the abuse of young girls as a reflection of our male-dominated society. Children are viewed as possessions, and while there exists a taboo against incest, there also exists a taboo against outside interference with the absolute rule of the man in the home.

Because of the reaction children may receive from parents if they relate an incident involving sexual molestation, children may suffer extreme guilt feelings if anyone forces them to submit sexually. Adults must recognize the seriousness of sexual abuse and discuss this issue with children so that they understand it is the offender and not the victim who is guilty. In the Humane Society study, over 40% of the cases involved repeated sexual abuse by the same person over a period of time. This statistic may well be a reflection of the abused child’s difficulty in accusing an adult of sexual assault.

Finally, many parents are reluctant to press charges against their child’s rapist in order to protect the child from an unpleasant court ordeal. Few defense lawyers are used to cross-examining children, and many, in an attempt to defend their clients, will try to place the blame on the child. In the Humane Association study, 173 arrests were made, and the child victims appeared in court more than 1000 times. Asking a child to recount the circumstances of a sexual assault even once before a courtroom of strangers is unthinkable for many parents and children.

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Confinement to a single sex institution necessitates the need for sexually adaptive behavior. Although prisons are the focus here, most institutions segregating the sexes share similar problems. Men and women react somewhat differently to confinement in a prison, most probably due to differences in their socialization. Therefore their experiences will be discussed separately.

Brownmiller suggests that rape in a male prison is an acting out of power roles, rather than expressing a sexual need.8 In this situation the weaker man is overpowered and assumes the feminine, typically passive role. Homosexual rapes in this situation are somewhat analogous to heterosexual rape in that the rapist tends to be a younger inmate who chooses a smaller man as his victim. Fear, brutality and humiliation often accompany the rape, and victims are frequently encouraged by guards not to report it to spare their family and friends the humiliation. The men who rape in prisons are often incarcerated for crimes of violence.

In 1968 Alan J. Davis of the district attorney’s office in Philadelphia conducted a study of prisons in Philadelphia.9 He too found that homosexual rape was not primarily motivated by the need for sexual release since masturbation was easier. Conquest and degradation did appear to be a primary goal. Gagnon and Simon argue that while masturbation may be easier it may be less acceptable to men who have been socialized to the taboos of such an act. They view the rape as an expression of the individual’s power and masculinity. The rapist, although involved in a homosexual act, is still viewed by others as heterosexual as long as there is no reciprocity from the victim. Davis would agree as he found that prison rape was a product of the violent subculture’s definition of masculinity through physical triumph.

Brownmiller states that providing women will not alleviate the rape problem in prisons. She reinforces the view that it is not a sexual release these men are seeking as much as it is a need to establish a hierarchy of the strong over the weak.10

Women respond to imprisonment somewhat differently. Although there is some lesbian activity and sexual assault among the inmates, women tend to establish family systems. Women respond to the depersonalization of prisons by forming pseudo-families with a husband, wife, children, and often aunts, uncles and cousins. These are usually not violent clusters, yet do establish a hierarchal system and pattern of behavior based on role definitions. Homosexual activity then may be expressed in the context of the roles of husband/wife relationships.

Gagnon and Simon summarize well when they state that “what is occurring in the prison situation for both men and women is not a problem of sexual release but rather the use of sexual relationships in the service of creating a community of relationships for satisfying needs for which the prison fails to provide in any other form.”11 In other words, if a male feels his masculinity is being questioned or challenged, he may use rape as a vehicle to reaffirm his position. Similarly women who need to reorganize their lives to provide the emotional as well as physical releases may form families and act out their respective roles.

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Lesson Plan I

Myth or Fact? A Survey.

Objective  Students will be able to differentiate between myths about rape and facts, with 90% accuracy.

Materials  Pencils and paper.

Strategy  The survey that follows can be given before the unit on rape is begun to assess how much students already know. It can serve as an evaluative instrument if used again as a post test to see how well students have comprehended the ideas presented.

Myth or Fact?

Students may respond with a true (fact) or false (myth) response.

1. The primary motive for rape is sexual.
2. Rape occurs only among strangers.
3. Women who are raped are asking for it by the kind of clothes they wear.
4. Victims of rape are usually young, attractive women.
5. Rapists are usually one-time offenders.
6. Most rapists are between 16 and 24 years old.
7. Rape is not planned but done on an urge.
8. Rapes happen most often in the street, or alleys in the early evening.
9. Most rapes are not reported to the police.
10. In most cases a woman can fight off her attacker.
11. A victim can report a rape to the police without charges being pressed against the rapist.
12. Medical treatment for rape victims is not necessary unless the victim is physically injured, i.e., cuts or bruises.


1. False. Rape is an act of violence with domination a key factor.
2. False. Rape often occurs between acquaintances or dates as well.
3. False. Women no more want to be raped than a person who carries money wants to be robbed.
4. False. Known victims have ranged in age from 6 months to 90 years.
5. False. Since so few rapists are convicted they tend to repeat their actions.
6. True.
7. False. Rapes are often planned but the victim is left to chance.
8. False. Most rapes occur in the victim’s home. Most rapes occur between 8 p.m.-2 a.m. and more frequently on weekends.
9. True.
10. False. Most often a victim is caught off guard, is probably less strong and probably isolated.
11. True. If a victim does not want to identify herself to the police she can anonymously give a description of the attacker and details of the assault.
12. False. It is important for the victim to be checked internally as well as having venereal disease and pregnancy prevention measures taken.

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Objective: This lesson, when presented in conjunction with the fact vs. myth survey, can help the teacher and students identify what their perceptions of rape are. Do the students share the same ideas about the circumstances under which a rape is likely to happen?

Materials  Paper and pencil.

Strategy  Ask each student to write a description of a rape including the following information.

1. The ages of the victim and the rapist.
2. A physical description of both individuals.
3. The location where the attack occurred.
4. The time.
5. Whether the people involved were acquainted with each other.
6. What the victim did following the rape.
If the teacher feels that the class response would be better, this exercise could be done as a group activity with the teacher writing the group’s responses on the blackboard.

Another alternative would be to divide the class into small groups of 4 or 5 and ask each to write a description.

Whatever method is chosen, the students’ work should be shared with the entire class.

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Objective  To help students formulate responses to situations in which they might find themselves threatened by a rapist. This lesson should be used after the students have completed and discussed the fact vs. myth survey. Male students should be asked to put themselves in the place of the females in the situations.

Materials  Paper and pencil (if done as written exercise)
Strategy: Ask the students to respond in writing or verbally. Before using this lesson the teacher should discuss with the class prevention tactics (see Appendix A). Several of the books in the teacher bibliography have short case studies that could be used in class to illustrate the actual circumstances under which rapes have occurred. Sharing these with students can be helpful in dispelling the notion that only women who put themselves in dangerous positions are raped.

What would you do if:

1. You were home alone and a man asked to use the telephone in your apartment to call a service station.
2. You were being driven home from a party by a man you like, and he stopped the car in a lonely area and began to force himself on you.
3. You had been babysitting at a neighbor’s house. The husband returned home first and started kissing you and fondling your body.
4. You had gone to the corner store at night for cigarettes; a man you had seen around the neighborhood followed you down the street. It is two blocks from your house, and no one else is outside.
5. You awakened at 2 in the morning and a man was in your bed with a knife at your throat.

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Emotional Needs of the Rape Victim

Objective  Students will be able to display through role playing and/or verbally articulate some of the emotional turmoil experienced by a rape victim.

Materials  None in particular. However a secure and accepting classroom atmosphere is suggested to permit student improvisation.

Strategies  The teacher may reproduce the background information provided, read it to the students and/or discuss it with the class.
The teacher should then “set the stage” by using the suggested situation or one of her own. Allow students to ad lib the dialogue and follow each scene with a discussion of what different outcomes could occur. This scene can be played several times by changing the person to whom the woman calls for help.

The Situation

A young woman is unloading groceries from her car. A young man whom she recognizes as another resident of her apartment building, but does not know, offers to help her carry the packages into her apartment. She accepts the offer. Once inside her home, the man takes out a knife and rapes the woman. After the assault the woman calls her fiancee (father, mother, police, husband, son, girlfriend) for help.

Students should assume the roles of the woman, the rapist, the fiancee (father, mother, police, etc.). The emphasis of the follow-up discussion should be on how the people involved FEEL, and what kinds of reactions the people involved may have.

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Angelou, Maya, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, New York: Bantam, 1971, pp. 57-73.

Contained on these pages in Ms. Angelou’s autobiography is a description of her sexual molestation by her mother’s boyfriend.

Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves, Second Edition, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979, pp. 155-161.

A brief, but comprehensive chapter on rape which includes several case studies, prevention tactics, and suggestions on what to do if you are raped.

Peck, Richard, Are You in the House Alone? New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1976.

A fictional account of a teenager’s rape by a classmate.

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Amir, Menachem, Patterns in Forcible Rape, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

The information in this book is based on a study of forcible rape cases recorded by the Philadelphia Police Department during 1958 and 1960.

A variety of data on variables including race, age, marital status, employment, etc. of rapists and victims is presented and discussed.

Bode, Janet, Fighting Back, How to Cope with the Medical, Emotional and Legal Consequences of Rape, New York: MacMillan, 1978.

This was written by a woman who was raped; she points out some of the horrors, but also the help that rape victims receive. State rape laws are summarized individually.

Brownmiller, Susan, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975.

Perhaps the best and most complete study on rape available. A large portion of this book is devoted to the historical data regarding rape.

Burgess, Ann Wolbert and Lynda Lytle Holstrom, Rape: Victims of Crisis, Bowie, Maryland: Robert J. Brady, 1974.

This book provides insights into the needs of victims, the motivation of offenders and institutional problems in dealing with rape.

Chappell, Duncan, Robley Geis, and Gilbert Geis, Eds., Forcible Rape: The Crime, the Victim and the Offender, New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

A collection of published articles by various authors covering different topics related to rape.

Connell, Noreen and Cassandra Wilson, Eds., New York Radical Feminists, Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women, New York: New American Library, 1974.

Contains transcripts of consciousness raising sessions with women discussing rape plus speeches made at a rape conference held in New York in 1971.

Gager, Nancy and Cathleen Shurr, Sexual Assault: Confronting Rape in America, New York: Grosset and Dunlop, 1976.

This is a good book to read to gain a general understanding of nearly every aspect of rape.

Gagnon, John H. and William Simon, “Sexual Encounters Between Adults and Children,” Distributed by Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), 1855 Broadway, New York, 1970.

Gagnon, John H. and William Simon, “The Social Meaning of Prison Homosexuality,” Distributed by Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), 1855 Broadway, New York.

This article discusses male and female sexual responses to imprisonment.

Hilberman, Elaine, The Rape Victim, New York: Basic Books, 1976.

An overview is provided here of the crime of rape plus five articles with detailed guidelines to victims and those with whom they come in contact following a sexual assault.

Holmstrom, Lynda L. and Ann Wolbert Burgess, The Victim of Rape: Institutional Reactions, New York: John Wiley, 1978.

This is a study of 146 persons admitted to Boston City Hospital in a one-year period with a rape complaint. The authors interviewed the victims immediately after the complaint was made and followed them through the entire court process.

Horos, Carol V., Rape, New Canaan, CT: Toby Publishing Co., 1974.

This book discusses research related to rape victims and rapists as well as outlines self defense procedures and what to do following an assault. What a victim can expect from the police and courts is also described.

Sanford, Linda Tschirhart and Ann Fetter, In Defense of Ourselves, a Rape Prevention Handbook for Women, New York: Doubleday, 1977.

An excellent book that could also be used by students; it contains many photographs showing self defense techniques and verbal exercises for improving self concept.

Storaska, Frederic, How to Say No to a Rapist and Survive, New York: Random House, 1975.

Very concrete suggestions are offered on how to extricate oneself from a rapist’s clutches. The author refuted all the usual methods generally advocated as ways of preventing rape.

Wheeler, Stanton, “Sex Offenses: A Sociological Critique,” Law and Contemporary Problems, Spring, 1960.

This article discusses characteristics of different kinds of sex offenders and their criminal career history.

———, Forcible Rape, Final Project Report by the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, United States Department of Justice, March 1978.

This report was undertaken to increase the effectiveness of the police, prosecution, and legislators in dealing with the crime of rape. It summarizes extensive data collected from police and prosecutors as well as from rape victims and offenders.

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Produced in cooperation with the Sex Crimes Detail of the San Francisco Police Dept. It presents 3 cases of rape attacks from the victim’s point of view contrasted with convicted rapists’ perspectives.

Available in Spanish. Release date: 1974 Length: 18 minutes Purchase $350/One Week Rental $60


A young hitchhiker is picked up on her way to work. Emphasis is on the psychological control of the rape and the varying sensitivity of police officers responding to the emotions of the victim.

Release date: 1975 Length: 10 minutes

Purchase $195/One Week Rental $35


Designed to present positive steps for rape prevention. Through a series of vignettes, the film emphasizes that there are no hard and fast rules to follow to avoid being rapes, but that there are things women can do to protect themselves and reduce risk. Narrated by Lee Meriwether.

Release date: 1979 Length: 17 minutes

Purchase $275/One Week Rental $40


From the first call for help to the end of the medical exam, this dramatization of a rape investigation deals with the intricate chain of events engulfing everyone involved in a rape situation. Deals frankly and honestly with the victim’s emotional needs.

Release date: 1977 Length: 20 minutes

Purchase $395/One Week Rental $60


This film challenges the widely held premise that the victim’s behavior is a logical defense to a rape charge.

Release date: 1977 Length: 7 minutes

Purchase $135/One Week Rental $35

To order or arrange for previews: call 800 323-1900, or write

MTI Teleprograms Inc.

4825 N. Scott Street, Suite 23 Schiller Park, Ill. 60176

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The following prevention tactics were developed by staff members of the Consultation Center, a division of the Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven, Connecticut.


I. General Precautions

1. Be aware that assaults, including rape, can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Observe your environment and be alert.
2. Trust your gut feeling. If someone looks suspicious to you, leave and get to a safe place. It is better to be embarrassed than hurt.
3. Never hitchhike and don’t accept rides from strangers; don’t pick up hitchhikers.
4. Know your neighborhood and neighbors. Look for potential danger areas and safety areas. Know what stores, etc. are open late and may serve as shelters. Take note of unlighted or little travelled areas and avoid them when possible.
5. Be familiar with your limitations and think about how you react under stress. Some women can respond effectively by physical struggle or fighting, others by flight and running and others by distraction, screaming or talking. What is your style?
6. If you are attacked in your apartment building, car, or anywhere, yell, “FIRE!” (It gets more response than screams for “HELP”).
7. If someone drives you home, ask them to wait until you are safely inside. Get a signal.

II. Outside Precautions
A. On foot.

____1. Try to always walk with a friend or several friends.
____People walking alone are easy targets.
____2. Be alert to your surroundings—know where you are going and don’t look lost.
____3. Walk briskly and confidently.
____4. If you’re walking and think you’re being followed, trust your feeling, turn around and look. Don’t worry about looking foolish. Run, cross the street, go into an open store, get out of the way—you could be saving your life.
5. Choose well lighted streets to walk on.
____6. Try to walk facing traffic so you won’t be caught off guard by a car pulling up behind you. But if you’re walking with traffic and a car pulls up behind you or starts following you, turn around and walk the other way.
____7. Think about how you are dressed. Do you have the freedom to run, or are your clothes too confining and heels too high?
____8. Don’t overload yourself with packages.
____9. Walk close to the center of the sidewalk (not too close to cars or shrubbery) or in the street.
____10. When walking at night, make sure you approach corners and other areas where your view is blocked in a way that you can see as much of what is around the corner as possible.
____11. If people ask you for directions, give them if you want, but don’t get too close. Be especially careful when persons in a car ask for directions that you don’t get too close to the car. Just give directions verbally—don’t offer to lead a person to where they’re going or ride along with them.
____12. Always avoid shortcuts at night—alleys, parks, backyards, dark streets, etc. In some neighborhoods it is a good idea to avoid shortcuts down alleys and hidden streets during the daytime too.
B. Public Transportation.

____1. Sit with most passengers or next to the driver—especially at night or when the bus is almost empty. The same goes for a subway or train. If you can’t sit next to the driver, take an aisle seat next to the exit—never be trapped next to a window or wall.
____2. If you are bothered by a man on the bus, don’t get off at your regular stop. Inform the bus driver.
____3. Change seats if you’re uncomfortable where you are.
____4. Don’t take rides from “bus stop samaritans” who stop to give you a lift in their car, even if you’ve missed the bus.
____5. When getting into a taxi, check the driver’s identification immediately. If his or her face doesn’t match the picture—get out.
____6. It is better not to enter an elevator alone with a strange man or men if possible. Stand near the control panel so that you can push the alarm button if necessary.
C. In your car

____1. Look into your back seat before you get into the car.
____2. Keep car doors locked at all times including when you are riding in the car. Assailants have been known to jump into cars at stop lights.
____3. Never pick up a hitchhiker.
____4. Do not stop to help a motorist. Think of your safety first, and be a good samaritan by stopping at the nearest phone and calling for help.
____5. If you have car trouble and have to pull over, keep your doors locked and windows up. Always carry a road flare to signal when you have car trouble. It should be outside the car, not you. If no one is nearby, or you don’t have a flare, jump out and raise the hood and get back into the car and lock it. If someone stops and offers to help you, ask them to call the police or a garage. Do not open your door.
____6. If you believe that you are being followed by another car, don’t pull into your driveway. Drive straight to the nearest police station or fire station and honk your horn. Do not leave your car until you are sure that it’s safe.
____7. If your car is ransacked, don’t get in, someone may be hiding and waiting for you, leave and call the police.
____8. Try to keep your gas tank full, so you won’t run out of gas in an isolated place.
____9. Always carry enough money for an emergency phone call or taxi ride.

III. At Home Precautions
A. Be careful who you let into your home.

____1. Never let a stranger into your home. Check identification through the viewer and don’t let anyone in who doesn’t have identification, including repairmen. Before opening the door check with their supervisor by phone if you are suspicious. If a repairman or some other stranger has to come into your home, try to make sure someone will be there with you.
____2. If a stranded motorist or someone else comes to your door asking to make an emergency phone call, don’t let them in. Ask them who they want called and make the call for them.
____3. Never feel guilty about closing the door on someone you don’t know.
____4. Always talk to strangers through your door, don’t open the door.
B. General precautions at home.

____1. If you’re at home and hear an unusual noise outside don’t be enticed outside. If the noise worries you, call the police.
____2. If you live in an apartment, make sure the area around the apartment house is well lighted and that hallways and stairwells are well lighted.
____3. If you come home and your home looks like it has been broken into, do not go in, someone may be in there. Leave and call the police.
____4. Always have your keys ready to be inserted in the lock before reaching your door.
____5. Keep your curtains drawn at night to avoid being observed and your home being cased.

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The Sexual Assault Component of the Consultation Center of the Connecticut Mental health Center offers workshops covering the areas of prevention, myths and biases regarding sexual assault, and stereotypes surrounding male-female relationships. For more information regarding these workshops which include films (described below), teachers may contact Dawn Evans at 789-7645.

Acquaintance Rape Prevention Films (available through the Consultation Center)

The Party Game. Kathy recently broke up with her boyfriend. She attends a party with friends and meets Mark who has crashed the party looking for girls. He tries to pick up Kathy. Each one is misunderstood by the other; she needs affirmation of her attractiveness and he wants easy sex. The result is a confrontation involving violence.

The Date. Charlotte, 16, is going out with Raymond, 20. It is the end of their second date and Raymond has spent a lot of money. Now he wants sex in return and moves in to get it when he learns that Charlotte’s parents are not home. Charlotte misunderstands Raymond’s intentions and continues to live out a fantasy of the perfect evening. Raymond acts out his disappointment and humiliation by becoming violent.

Just One of the Boys. Mike, who is sexually inexperienced, is invited to celebrate a football victory by going out with two teammates, Ed and Jake. He learns that Ed has been “setting-up” Josie, a girl with a bad reputation. Josie has a crush on Ed and thinks his sudden interest is genuine. Mike is presented with a moral dilemma when his friends insist that he participate in sexually attacking her.

End of the Road. Jenny’s car breaks down on a lonely road, leaving her stranded. Dan who remembers her from summer school, happens by and stops to help. He is silently overjoyed at the chance to be with a woman who otherwise would never notice him. He offers to take her home and then tries to persuade her to spend more time with him. She says no, she’s late already, but maybe some other time. Feeling desperate, he stops at the side of the road and begins to force himself on her.

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1. New Haven Register, Sunday, May 17, 1981.
2. Horos, Carol V. Rape, Toby Publishing Co., New Canaan, CT, 1974, p. 6.
3. Brownmiller, Susan. Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1975, p. 183.
4. Ibid., p. 182.
5. Horos, Carol V. Rape. Toby Publishing Co., New Canaan, CT, 1974. p. 21.
6. Forcible Rape, Final Project Report by the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, United States Department of Justice, March 1978, p. 15.
7. Gagnon, John H. and William Simon, “Sexual Encounters Between Adults and Children,” SIECUS, January, 1970.
8. Brownmiller, Susan. Against Our Will, Men, Women and Rape, Simon and Schuster, N. Y., 1975, p. 256.
9. Ibid. p. 264.
10. Ibid. p. 257.
11. Gagnon, John and William Simon. “The Social Meaning of Prison Homosexuality.” Distributed by SIECUS, 1855 Broadway, N. Y. C. #066, p. 6.

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Contents of 1981 Volume III | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

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