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.