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It's hard to get raped, robbed, shot
beaten or killed if you're not there.

Escape from rape

On this page:
Right or Raped? | Normal is back that-a-way Survivors guilt | Initiating violence | To hit or not to hit | Escaping

Marc has a saying when he does expert witness work in court cases. "This is the worst thing you've ever seen, it is not, however, the worst thing I've ever seen." He has to explain this to people because quite often what people are seeing is indeed terrible, but it could have been worse. But until you have seen worse, the idea that it could still go downhill seems almost impossible.

Unfortunately, rape is one of those examples. Before a woman is sexually assaulted, her emotions, pride and anger seem overwhelmingly important. Enough to to blind her to the fact that she's standing on the railroad tracks trying to argue with a runaway train about its behavior.

Never mind her reasons for doing so, that is not a behavior that is conducive to not getting raped.

Right or Raped?
We have a basic question that we ask: What would you rather be, right or raped?

When after the woman replies that she doesn't want to get raped, we reply: Then you better quite trying to "win" and focus more on doing something that will keep you from getting raped.

In a long list of statements about rape that twists off advocates, this is pretty much the topper.   Wow... the outrage, the anger, the barrage of "I HAVE A RIGHT TO....!" and "Why should I be the one who ...?" or "I'm not going to ..." But, our personal favorite "He's the one who's in the wrong ..."

Wow, they're not only going to try to argue with a run away train, they're going to start defending their right to do so then and there. It doesn't take too much of psychic to guess the outcome if she finds herself alone with a man intent on sexually assaulting her.

Our advice: Get out of there. Take heed of the quote on the top of the page.

However, the idea of leaving a situation without "getting in the last word," "giving him a piece of your mind," "showing how mad you are at him", "evening the score," "hurting him for making you angry" or "getting back at him for treating you this way"  irritates certain kinds of people.

In their make up is the need, if not to be right, then at least to always come out of a situation with pride intact. In fact, the idea of leaving isn't so odious to them. But the idea of leaving without having scored a telling blow on the person for emotionally hurting them is unacceptable. As soon as they get that last devastating emotional lash stroke on his psyche then they will leave.

The exact reason for this behavior can come in many different forms, but for ease of discussion we call it "being right." In short being "right" means they have in some way restored balance, self-image and punished him for his misconduct.

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking seriously increases your chances of being raped.

It is literally the equivalent of standing on the train tracks arguing for your 'right' to be there. Furthermore you are going to punish that train for not respecting your rights. You may have the "right" to be there, but the train coming at you doesn't care. And you certainly aren't going to change it's behavior by slapping it

So instead of arguing for your right to play on the railroad tracks, let's focus on getting off the tracks.

Normal is back that-a-way
Horace, a very famous Roman writer, once said: Anger is a short madness. Putting that in simple terms, being mad means that you are temporarily crazy. And the madder you are the crazier you get. Anybody, who without being emotional themselves,  has had to deal with someone who is angry can tell you that an angry person isn't reasonable. Like being drunk, their decision making process is seriously impaired. However, when everyone is upset and caught up in the moment, they think they are making good decisions. It's only afterwards when everyone has cooled off and is back to being reasonable that you realize that decisions that made so much sense at the time, are in fact, serious cases of "Oops." Things were said and done that shouldn't have.

Unfortunately there are some people who feel that whatever they do when they are angry is justified. They can never see reason, much less that maybe their actions weren't the best thing to do,  even when they are calm. Whether angry or not, they will not only insist on their right to argue with a train, but argue just as ferociously with anyone who say playing on the railroad tracks isn't a good idea. Fortunately, most people aren't this extreme and upon calm reflection realize that their behavior when angry probably wasn't the smartest thing they ever did.

Having said all sure made sense at the moment.

The reason knowing this is important is many women have discovered that staying and arguing with a rapist made perfect sense...right up until the moment that he attacked and raped them. It was at that moment that they realized "We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto." The situation, that in their anger, frustration and outrage, they thought they could control, proves itself uncontrollable. They find that the situation has developed to a point that their ability to control it was about three exits back -- and there is no backing up. The problem is how do you -- before it is too late --  tell a controllable situation from an uncontrollable one?

The short answer is compare circumstances to see what is different.

While that may be the simple answer, what is underlying it isn't. It means before finding yourself in a situation learning to recognize the danger signs of impending crime/violence, learning to recognize dangerous people and knowing the limitations of when and where you should deal with them, avoiding high risk behavior and learning that it takes more than attitude and anger to stay safe. Now comes the hardest part, having the self-control so when you find yourself in these circumstances to take the exit  before it escalates to where you are no longer in control.

Upon hearing this many agenda driven people squeal that we are saying that a woman should just fold up and cower any time a man says "Boo." Nothing could be further from the truth. What we ARE saying however, is don't argue with someone where you can be attacked and raped. You really don't want to do that with a person who is likely to use violence to get what he wants. This isn't about empowerment, it's about commonsense.

Simply stated: People have ways of doing things that work in the normal world. There it is not uncommon for people to routinely defend themselves against minor transgressions. The sort that we encounter everyday. Often these are anger provoking violations of our personal boundaries that threaten our self-worth and our belief about how we should be treated. Under normal circumstances people "play by the rules" and these minor infractions and retaliations do not escalate into physical violence.

Because we are so accustomed to doing this behavior everyday -- and quite frankly having a good degree of success --  we tend to assume that this strategy works everywhere. In fact, we can unconsciously begin to use this as a default program on how to handle a problem. Furthermore, we often make the unconscious assumption that people are going to play by the rules -- regardless of the circumstances. This is why people so often don't realize when the circumstances are quite different than what we are, not only accustomed to, but think they are. In other words, you think you know what is going on, but in fact, it is a totally different situation  -- even when it involves someone you know. Unfortunately, as rape is not a normal circumstance. Such reactions under potentially dangerous circumstances just serve to increase your danger. In some cases, functionally *ensuring* that you will be assaulted -- either sexually or physically.

This is why you always need to check your circumstances before allowing yourself to automatically react to a violation of these assumptions. When these assumptions are proven to be incorrect it is always a shock. However, the shock is often overwhelming when they are physically proven to be incorrect. A major contributing factor to why rapists are successful is the stunning shock that their victim has that the situation isn't what she thought it was; that it has suddenly gone from a verbal situation to a physical one. When we use the word shock, we don't just mean in the sense of being appalled at someone's behavior, we are talking about an actual physical and mental state of shock. Where one's mind and body cannot function.

The stunning magnitude of the shock is often made worse because because rape is seldom a simple issue. It is usually mixed with other complicating factors such as alcohol, anger, drugs and only moments before being sexually aroused. And those are the hard and fast issues, the softer more complicated ones are the social nuances of a situation, the woman's mindset, what she was doing at the time, how familiar she is with violence and, quite often her expectations and assumptions about her attacker. Rape can happen under a wide variety of circumstances and the issues we have just mentioned ALL effect a woman's ability to "shift gears" when a situation goes physical (1)  You think things are a certain way and the next you are being physically assaulted.

For a lot of women, this is just too much to handle effectively. They cannot get over the staggering impact that the situation isn't what they thought it was, figure out where they are and then get to where they need to be in order to stop it in time. If you think being lost is bad, imagine trying figure out where you are, how to get out and then doing it while you are being physically assaulted and overwhelmed

The truth of the matter  is if you are in circumstances where you can be raped you are in an isolated situation with someone who is willing to use violence to get what he wants. Your words of anger, hostility and outrage are *not* likely to have the desired effect. And yet, pride, wounded ego, anger and outrage will often spur you to stay and "fight." And when you are fighting, you are trying to "win." Winning isn't about safety,  or self-defense it's about ego and being "right."

Our attitude of "Winning be damned, just get the hell out of there!" And by whatever means necessary to keep you from being raped. You can deal with your anger later, now is the time for effective action.   And that means get out of there by whatever means possible. If you cannot do this, and you let your emotions and anger rule you, then odds are you will be raped.

You have to be smarter and more conscious than a would-be rapist. And that means you have to avoid giving into temporary madness... whether fear or anger. It's much, much easier to leave a potential situation than it is to fight your way out of a situation that has turned physical

Survivor's guilt
We have noticed a interesting phenomenon in our women's self-defense seminars. It is what we call "survivor's guilt." While you would expect  guilt and shame from women who were raped, it is amazing to discover even more guilt and shame in women who avoided being raped.

And yet, we commonly see this phenomenon among women who conned, tricked or talked their way out of being raped.

Apparently they are ashamed that they resulted to "Feminine guile" to avoid being raped rather than using "Macho Bravada" and a blinding blur of fists and feet to beat the crap out of an attacker. In these days of assertiveness and "girl power" they are ashamed that instead of standing up to a violent attacker they got out of being hurt by outsmarting him. After all, they are competent, able to take care of themselves people. And having to "stoop to such low levels" hurts their pride.

To begin with there is a difference between being competent in your normal life and being a "tough chick." In fact, the two are not even close. Furthermore, competence and confidence in one area does not automatically mean you have it across the board and in all circumstances. You can't know, much less be competent in something that you have never dealt with before. This especially applies to physical violence. Where when you are actually facing it it is totally different than anything you have seen on TV. Having a gut sinking, nauseous feeling of horror as you realize that there is nothing between you and a potential attacker is NORMAL! Any "tough chick" act tends to shrivel up like a worm on a frying pan when faced with raw horror of  pending violence.

Simply stated: There is a part of you that takes one look at the danger and instead of proceeding on a chest-beating act of defiance says, "Think fast, Rabbit!"(2)  Then you proceeds to find some way to wiggle out of a dangerous situation. By hook or crook you get out of being raped.

Congratulations, you just did the smartest, most effective thing you can do.

It has nothing to do with "not handling the situation right," "losing face" or "going belly up." It has everything to do with not getting raped. It's looking at the physical prowess of an attacker and not contesting it. It's about out-thinking him!   It's about getting out of there.

Unfortunately, many people, in the heat of the momentary madness, take a less effective tact. They try to argue with, control or scare off  a would be attacker by showing how powerful they are. A tact that seems effective until it blows up in their faces and gets them raped.

Quite honestly, a smaller weaker woman cannot hope to fight a larger, stronger man intent on attacking her -- not without years and years of specialized training. And we do mean specialized, most martial arts training is ineffective as it is based on muscle and speed. As will be any "stripped down" training that is based on those ideals, functional self-defense training is not what you think it is. Lest you think this comment about a smaller woman fighting a larger man is  a sexist remark, it's not,  a smaller untrained man cannot hope to win against a determined larger opponent either. It's not about gender, it is simple physics, mass and muscle. Why do you think there are weight categories in sports such as boxing and wrestling?

Where size is less of a consideration is when the attacker is not dedicated to the attack. At least not dedicated enough to suffer intense pain for it. In those circumstances then it is possible for a smaller opponent to overwhelm a larger one with a direct frontal-assault. However, such a tactic -- while working on a drunken college boy -- is  just as likely to set him off. Against a habitually violent person, someone who is experienced with fighting, it is almost guaranteed to increase his commitment to hurting you. And you *will* lose against such an attack. No matter what any "tough chick" WSD instructor tells you. By the time it has developed to a physical assault, winning is pretty much out of the question for the average person, much less the average woman.

With this in mind, the idea of escaping rather than trying to fight becomes far more appealing. (Incidentally, if it does go violent, instead of trying to fight an attacker, your goal needs to be to fight your way you can escape. You're not fighting to win, you're physically trying to escape). Getting out before it turns physical is just plain the "smart thing to do" and it doesn't matter how you accomplish it.

It is amazing to see the change in the women's faces at our seminars when they start talking about these experiences and discover that they did the right thing. Right because they didn't get raped. It's not how  you don't get raped that is important, it's the fact that you didn't get raped that counts.

As we encourage women to tell these stories and applaud them for their creativity, they realize that they had been torturing themselves over their successes because they THOUGHT they had failed. They felt this way because they didn't live up to unrealistic expectations set for themselves. You DON'T have to deal with a potential rapist by standing up to him and asserting your rights -- what matters is that you get out of there without being raped.

That is success no matter how you look at it.(3)

Initiating violence
From purely informal and unscientific interviews that we have done with rape victims we discovered an astonishing trend. In approximately 80% of all the date rapes the woman initiated the physical violence.

She was the one who hit first.

To say this finding is controversial is like saying the "Titanic sprung a small leak." Somewhat of  a massive understatement comes to mind. However, once we step away from the "blame game" and begin to look at it from a wider perspective, this makes perfect sense. There is no blame or implied condemnation with this finding.

It is however, as you will see, significant.

As we mentioned, these numbers were arrived at by a totally unscientific process. It was, however, based on actual interviews and noticing a important trend that is often overlooked -- or rationalized away  -- by advocates. Regardless if the numbers resulting from our informal survey are correct, this trend does constitute a significant issue that needs to be studied further and its importance considered instead of explained away.

As stated the bonding process is an unconscious human behavioral pattern. That means we are usually unaware of the overall process that we are following -- even when we are deeply in the middle of it. While love might not be blind, how we get there is often on autopilot. Once it is pointed out, however,  it is easy to recognize and observe. This applies to both when the process is proceeding smoothly and when is going wrong. In fact, it can entertaining sitting back and watching people you don't know engage in the public display part of the process (Doing this with friends at a club where  you all doing running commentaries on things like preening and flirting behavior is not only a great way to familiarize yourself with the process, but have lots of laughes)

Until you are familiar with it, however, the failure of the process can often be summed up in the following line: I don't know what is wrong, but I know something isn't right.

That is both the greatest strength and greatest weakness of an unconscious process. It is a strength because while the details vary drastically, we humans all have pretty much the same script to read from when it comes to this process. This allows us basic guidelines to operate towards certain goals without much technical thought. The idea is to get to a goal, not stress too much on how.

It is a weakness because, since we have never thought about it, when things go significantly wrong we aren't sure how to handle them. We often respond with anger, frustration and confusion when our unconscious patterns are challenged in unexpected and dramatic ways.

Nobody is arguing whether she's got a right to be upset. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial experience is being pushed and bullied. There is only emphasis on his desires, not a mutual benefit. The issue is *how* she becomes upset. It's what she does with it that can become a problem. It is not uncommon for the female's frustration with the process being bullied to manifest in her striking the offending male intending to deter or slow him down. Imagine this soundtrack "Stop that! *smack*"

And that is where things often go sideways.

To hit or not to hit
Hitting someone is not in and of itself bad. However, the problem is that a woman should never hit a man with any other purpose than to knock him out.

In other words: If you aren't striking to "deck him," don't hit him.

The purpose of any physical engagement needs to be escape.

However, that doesn't mean dashing around in panic like a goldfish in a bowl trying to escape from the net. That sort of escape attempt actually encourages an attacker to keep on attacking. We teach the "Fluffy the Cat" version of escape.

To best understand Fluffy, think back to the time you were sitting in the vet's office holding a cat when someone walked in with a dog. All of a sudden that small little fluffy kitty becomes a maniac with four wheeled buzzsaw drive. Who did the cat use for traction?  You know first hand how much damage something small and dedicated to escape can do.

That's fighting your way to freedom.

If you ask most police officers who they would rather face a criminal attempting to climb over them to escape or a drunk who wants to fight them, they will almost all say "the fighter." That's because someone who is attempting to fight you is going to do far less damage to you than someone who is dedicated to climbing over your face in order to escape. Also someone who is trying to fight you is predictable and easily overwhelmed. While people trying to escape in this manner are unpredictable. And the more you try to control them the harder they attempt to climb over you.

Now often it is not possible to simply walk by someone who is attempting to rape you. Therefore powerful blows do need to be thrown. Not in an attempt to make him stop or to knock him out per se, but rather to clear a path for you to bolt towards the exit. Amazingly enough, blows that are thrown while attempting to "fight" are often less powerful and effective than those thrown while attempting to flee. This is because when you are attempting to reach the door, your entire bodyweight is moving and involved in the hits.

For women we don't advocate kicking, but we do advocate elbows and forearm strikes as you are heading for the exit.

And always remember, don't run from danger, run to safety.

Return to top

1) This is an issue that goes beyond rape. The sense of shock when a situation goes physical -- and the ability to over come it -- is a significant factor in all types of violence. Men are just as susceptible to freezing in shock as women The side that hits first, the hardest and with overwhelming force is usually the side that wins. This is why it is such a commonly used strategy in violence. By attacking in this manner the victim is never given a chance to regroup and recover. Return to text

2) This comes from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon Hair Raising Hare. Bugs is being chased by a big orange monster and suddenly finds himself teetering at the edge of a bottomless pit. Looking at certain death from both directions, Bugs says to himself, "Think fast Rabbit!" He then distracts the monster by pretending to be a chatty hairdresser and giving the monster a perm and manicure...complete with dynamite as hair rollers. THAT'S what we mean by outthinking an attacker. Return to Text

3) Unfortunately there are people out there who will try to shame you with comments like "Well I would have...!" usually these comments are from people with axes to grind, agendas to promote or the type of person who would argue with an oncoming train about their right to stand on the tracks. In short, these are the same women who would most likely to be raped if they had been there and tried this anger driven idealism. Sad to say, this attitude is not uncommon among more politicized and radical Women's Self-defense programs. Which is why you really need to have some standards of what needs to be in self-defense training before you take a course. Return to text

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Defeating the Victim's Consciousness

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