The subject of rape and being physically over-powered has been coming up recently. My friend’s daughter, Shelagh (pronounced Shayla) told me about a paper she had written on the subject of how often rape happens between people who know each other.
Bad Rape Jokes on Twitter
Then there was the story of bad rape jokes on Twitter that led to a UFC fighter, Miguel Torres, being released from the organization. Finally, I noticed a long conversation taking place on Facebook regarding the best ways women can defend themselves against rape.
Funny how things often come in threes.
What Rosi thinks
“By focusing on the stranger in the car park or the back alley, (self-defense programs) continue to blind women to the danger of the really sweet guy she met in the bar who offers to walk her to her car, or the man who’s just invited her in for a coffee. Most rapists don’t fit the model of ‘deranged sexual predator with a screw loose’ that they are describing.”
As the Facebook conversation progressed, Rosi identified a variety of ways men over-power women. “For example, it might come down to coercion or blackmail, rather than outright violence. There’s also a reluctance of women to retaliate physically against someone she knows, and there’s the difficulty of being in an enclosed or compromising location — e.g. his car or house.”
Even though Rosi is well-trained in how to defend herself physically, she said, “In my opinion, only a very small part of rape prevention involves teaching women to fight back physically.”
I agree with Rosi. It’s important to know how to defend yourself, but it’s unlikely that you’ll remember what to do or be effective at it, unless you practice your moves frequently. One of the best reasons for taking kick-boxing or boxing or any martial arts class, is the practice you get, breathing properly under stress.
Self-Defense vs. Common Sense
Rosi continued, “For example, how would this even begin to address the case of a man who takes a compromising photo of a woman at a drunken party, and then coerces her into having sex by threatening to post the photo on Facebook? Or the woman who accepts a spiked drink from a stranger?
The most important message to get across — again, just in my opinion — is to be very careful who you get drunk with, go out with, go home with, accept a lift from or have a relationship with. And, that most rapists aren’t obvious monsters with a screw loose – they’re normal looking guys, who may very well be charming and funny and come across as the perfect gentleman.”
Beyond the common sense things people do to keep themselves out of dangerous situations, I’m left wondering how people get themselves sorted out, after something bad does happen to them. I don’t mean actual “rape”. I leave that to the professionals prepared to handle that level of anger, disruption and distress. I mean the dominating behavior that would lead a man to force a woman into doing something — that she ordinarily wouldn’t do — by putting her in a difficult position.
Being placed in a position to follow someone’s orders because they have power over you — sounds like bullying to me.
Statistics from Shelagh
Shelagh Murphy, a student at Columbia University, has numbers to add into the discussion. The following points are from a paper she’s written entitled, “Rape Prevention Programs”. If you would like a specific reference, let me know.
How many? Between 20% and 25% of college women experience a completed or attempted rape before they graduate (McMahon; Foubert & Cremedy, 2007), with some estimates of college women experiencing sexual violence as high as 50% (Banyard, Moynihan, & Plante, 2007).
Fight back (Get loud): Until recently, women were warned not to resist rapists, much like they were warned not to wear sexy clothing (Rozee, 2011). Current research shows that physically resisting, either forcefully fighting or defensively, or forcefully verbally accosting a rapist diminishes the rate of completed sexual assaults (Fischer, Diagle, & Cullen, 2008; Rozee, 2011; Lonsway, et al, 2009).
Who does it? Nation wide, 62% of women who experience rape are raped by current or former partners or boyfriends, and 21% are raped by acquaintances (Fisher, Diagle, & Cullen, 2008). On college campuses, at least 2/3rds of rapes are committed by acquaintances, 25-30% of whom are intimate partners.
Why? Berg, Lonsway, and Fitgerald (1999) found that 20% of the men in their study would rape if they could get away with it.
One last scholarly point from Shelagh: While most rapes occur in private (Casey, 2009), challenging rape jokes and hyper-masculinity within social settings amongst peers, is one of the ways the bystander approach programs encourage participants to address rape (Casey & Linhorst, 2009, Flood, 2011; Foubert & Cremedy, 2007; Lonsway, et al, 2009).
Learning lessons the hard way
Interesting to note that a situation recently happened involving Miguel Torres making a disgusting rape joke out in the open where anyone could see it. Miguel is a public figure and is in the position of influencing people–whether he does the right thing or the wrong thing.
Miguel was upset. His fans were upset.
Four weeks after releasing Miguel, Dana has re-hired him. The shock of Dana’s response caused Miguel to take a look at what he had done and how his humor affected other people.
Read this He’s Back! Punishment is Over, Miguel Torres Rejoins the UFC for the details about the rape centers he visited (and the money he donated) to sensitize himself to how his words impact other people.
Who’s in your corner? Whose corner are you in?
Lessons: tell the people who are in your corner so they can help you.
- Be in your own corner first. Don’t give responsibility for your well-being to people you don’t know or to people who haven’t taken good care of your feelings in the past.
- Trust people to behave well around you. If the pattern of their behavior is ringing alarm bells in your head. Honor the alarm bells and leave the situation immediately.
- If something terrible does happen to you, don’t keep it to yourself. Find someone you trust to help you. Feeling embarrassed or ashamed–if that’s what’s stopping you–will disappear when someone empathizes with you. You will feel supported if you reach out for help.
If you think about it, Dana White is an excellent corner man for Miguel Torres. Dana stepped up and delivered a significant consequence that woke Miguel up.
Life is full of surprises. Be prepared for the next time people get weird or do something you don’t like.