Recent research confirms that fighting back against an assailant does not increase the likelihood of injury, but it does increase the likelihood of preventing sexual assault.
Jongyeon Tark and Gary Kleck published a study in Violence Against Women on “Resisting Rape: The Effects of Victim Self-Protection on Rape Completion and Injury.” Their research used data from the National Crime Victimization Survey to answer two questions, ““Are you more likely to be injured when being assaulted if you protect yourself?” and “What self-protection actions are effective in reducing rape completion?”
This study specifically focused on the sequence of self-protective actions and injury: whether injuries were inflicted prior to victims taking self-protective actions (and therefore irrelevant to the question, “Are you more likely to be injured when being assaulted if you try to protect yourself?”) or after taking self-protective actions. The researchers looked at a variety of situations including those in which the victim was attacked or threatened with a gun, attacked or threatened with other weapons (including knives), attacked without a weapon (hit or kicked), and threatened without a weapon.
The results showed that while it is not uncommon for victims of rape or attempted rape suffer injuries, few of these injuries were inflicted after the victim took protective actions. Resistance was rarely followed by the assailant inflicting further injury on the victim.
The researchers also studied specific self-protection actions to determine which actions are most effective. Some of the self-protection actions included were: victim attacked offender with gun, victim attacked offender with other weapons such as a knife, victim attacked without a weapon (hit, kicked, etc.), victim struggled, victim yelled at offender, victim ran away, victim called police, victim tried to attract attention, and victim cooperated or pretended to.
The results found that, “no form of victim resistance was associated with significantly higher risk of rape completion than non-resistance.” The most effective tactics for avoiding rape completion were:
a) Running or driving away/hiding/locking door
b) Attracting attention/calling for help
c) Physically struggling
d) Unarmed attacks on the rapist
This is very much in line with what we teach at IMPACT; if you can safely leave the situation, do so (prevention), if you can’t safely leave, use verbal techniques first (use your voice), and use physical skills as a last resort. These self-protective actions reduce the risk of rape by 86%.
Katie Skibbe, IMPACT Chicago Instructor-in-training