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Avoiding Rape: The Effects of Protective Actions and Situational Factors on Rape Outcome

NCJ Number
Violence and Victims Volume: 17 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2002 Pages: 691-705
Jody Clay-Warner
Date Published
December 2002
15 pages
This article discusses the situational effectiveness of physical, forceful verbal, and non-forceful verbal protective strategies on avoiding rape.
This study examined whether attack location, presence of a weapon, presence of a bystander, offender’s use of drugs/alcohol, or prior acquaintance with the offender interacted with protective actions to affect rape outcome. The predictions were that women that took protective action would be more likely to avoid rape than women that did not; physical resistance will be the most effective protective action, followed by forceful verbal resistance; and that non-forceful verbal resistance will not be significantly related to rape avoidance. It is also expected that the effectiveness of particular protective actions will vary across situations. Data were used from the National Crime Victimization Survey, a national probability survey of reported and unreported crime victimization in the United States. The results confirm that one of the most important factors in rape avoidance is women’s use of protective actions. Women that used protective actions were significantly more likely to avoid rape than women that did not. Women that used a physical protective action, including physical fighting and attempts to flee, significantly reduced their risk of completed rape. It is the physical nature of the strategy and not the act of resistance itself that accounts for the reduced risk. Results also suggest that both forceful and non-forceful verbal protective actions are ineffective at preventing rape. Among women that resisted, the use of non-forceful verbal protective action was associated with rape completion. Pleading, begging, and reasoning with the offender was predictive of rape completion. Offenders may interpret begging or pleading as a sign of control over a powerless victim, prompting them to complete their act of domination. The results also suggest that the effectiveness of particular resistance strategies does not vary across most situations. Physical resistance was effective across situations, with the possible exception of instances in which the assailant threatened the victim with a weapon. Both forceful and non-forceful verbal resistance strategies are generally ineffective. 1 figure, 3 tables, 4 notes, 35 references