How to prevent being raped series (2/10) - High risk situations for rape

Trauma, abuse and bereavement / Category / Emile Du Toit / August 31st 2014

This 2nd blog in the series of 10 on preventing rape examines high risk situations for rape. If you missed the first article in the series then I suggest you start by reading The Harsh Realities of Rape.  It examines the resistance to from some quarters to examining high risk situations and why in my opinion we nevertheless definitely need to empower women through understanding these situations. I examine the general factors correlated with rape and then unpack (one of them) the high risk situations for rape. Lastly, I summarise 10 practical tips for avoiding completed rape when you are in high risk situations.

 

High risk situations for rape

 

Resistance to analysing high risk situations for rape

 

High risk situations for rape are situational factors that make rape more likely. When people write literature on high risk situations for rape it tends to polarize people into two camps. There are those who support such articles as this knowledge can help protect women from rape. However, there is often adversarial, emotional argument from radical feminists who believe that it is irresponsible to write about such topics. They feel that if women choose to place themselves in these (now identified) high-risk rape situations, this may reinforce bigoted and entirely incorrect beliefs that ‘putting themselves in danger’ makes women responsible for being raped.

We need to be able to have empowering dialogues on the difference between:

A. The useful advice that a woman will be at higher risk of rape if she goes staggering drunkenly down a dark alley in a skimpily clad dress at 3 am whilst declaring ‘My friends have left me behind and I don’t know how I am going to get home’.

AND

B.  The illogical and bigoted argument if this scenario does indeed play out, that this poor woman was somehow responsible for being raped – that she was ‘looking for it’. 

A women can never, in any which way be in the slightest bit responsible for being coerced into having sexual relations. Definitively, a victim cannot be responsible for being raped!

Clearly society’s beliefs around women’s rights, sexual assault and what constitutes rape need to be seriously challenged!

We cannot ignore the realities of rape in favour of utopian ideals

 

There appears to be confusion with high risk situations for rape, between how things ARE and how things OUGHT TO BE.

Women ought to be able to go anywhere and act any way they like without increasing their chance of being raped. However, this is sadly not possible in the world we live in today. The way I see it we have to acknowledge today’s reality that rape is disgustingly common. Within this reality the more information that women have available the better they can protect themselves and the better the quality of the choices they can make.

However, another reality we need to acknowledge is that the only way to remove all risk of being raped would be to live alone in a panic room.  

We thus need to way up without prejudice, and utilise all possible methods to fight this problem. We need to work to reduce both incidences of completed rape itself, as well as the bigoted and often misogynistic beliefs that lead to rape being so common in the first place.

A quick aside on the gender of victims of rape

 

Approximately 7% of victims of sexual assault / rape are men.

I have largely used examples of women as victims as they are more often victims and there is a much larger body of research on women. However, much of what follows also applies to male victims. It must also be noted that there is a huge stigma attached to being a male victim of rape. Many in society assume automatically that you must be homosexual. And when genuinely gay men are raped then, very similar to attitudes towards many women who are raped, the assumption is often that they were ‘looking for it’. Another parallel with female victims is that there is very little sympathy for rape within the context of gay relationships.

General factors correlated with rape

 

According to criminology theories, one’s risk of being victimized can be explained by the convergence of several factors: 4. 7.   

  • risky situations,
  • suitable targets,
  • motivated offenders,
  • an absence of capable guardians.

So a young college women, high on MDMA, who has become isolated from her friends at an outdoor ‘rave’ and meets a sexually aggressive man may face a higher risk of sexual victimization.

High-risk situations for completed rape:

 

Criminology studies help to predict stranger-related rape. However, they are less helpful in the case of attacks by someone known to the victim. Nevertheless, when we analyse general factors correlated with all rape the following places women at higher risk:

  • Social situations such as parties and bars, irrespective of alcohol intake 6.  
  • Drinking by the perpetrator
  • Drinking by the victim
  • Knowing the perpetrator
  • Fraternity and sports participation 1. 2.  
  • Being at college

Alcohol consumption by either the victim and/or the perpetrator is present in between half and two thirds of all rapes.

Research on college women also suggests that women who are threatened after drinking have less belief in their ability to resist their attacker and also blame themselves more during the rape. Sadly, these factors are both associated with less effective resistance to rape 3. 5.  

10 practical tips to reduce risk in high risk situations

 

Colleges and universities place women at particularly high risk of being raped. Students want to be free and enjoy their college years, but also haven‘t always developed the skills necessary to protect themselves. Here is a short list of tips that is designed to get you thinking on how best to protect yourself in high risk situations.

  • Do not trust people because you know them – more on this in the next blog.
  • Know when you are in a high risk situation and consciously make yourself more alert. Don’t get distracted by cell phones or ear phones.
  • Always get a lift back from clubs with female friends.
  • Never go to his place after a night of drinking, or after 8pm, until you know him really well!
  • Always have a buddy system in clubs and pubs where you look out for each other.
  • Never accept an open drink at the bar, unless you watch it poured in front of you. Date rape drugs are easily available and can be administered by anyone.
  • Never leave your drink unguarded, or accept an open drink from anyone.
  • Never leave a pub/club/restaurant alone.
  • Always carry a self-defence weapon in your hand (pepper spray etc.) when talking outside of a bar / restaurant / your car. It is no use if you don’t have access to it.
  • Trust your gut and react assertively early on when you know things are going in a direction you do not want.

It is always safe until it isn’t, please look out for yourself and for one another!

This series on How to prevent being raped will continue next week with part 3 of 10, Acquaintance Rape.

References

 

  • Koss, M. P., & Dinero, T. E. (1988). Predictors of sexual aggression among male college students. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 528, 133-147.
  • Koss, M. P., & Gaines, J. A. (1993). The prediction of sexual aggression by alcohol use, athletic participation, and fraternity affiliation. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 8, 84-108.
  • Macy, R. J., Nurius, P., & Norris, J. (2006). Responding in their best interests: Contextualizing women’s coping with acquaintance sexual aggression. Violence Against Women, 12, 478-500.
  • Meier, R. F., & Miethe, T. D. (1993). Understanding theories of criminal victimization. In M. Tonry (Ed.), Crime and justice: A review of research (Vol. 17, pp. 459-499). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Nurius, P. S., Norris, J., Macy, R. J., & Huang, B. (2004). Women’s situational coping with acquaintance sexual assault. Violence Against Women, 10, 450-478.
  • Parks, K. A., & Zetes-Zanatta, L. (1999). Women’s bar-related victimization: Refining and testing a conceptual model. Aggressive Behavior, 25, 349-364.
  • Ullman, S.E. (2007). A 10-year update of ‘Review and critique of empirical studies of rape avoidance.’ Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34(3), 411-429.

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