[Nota Bene: A lot of this is going to piss off a lot of you. I am most certainly NOT blaming any victims by saying any of this; I'm proposing a better way to prepare people for the harsh reality that certain people are just not nice.]
What Is Rape?
I wasn't going to answer this question. I like Sardathrion's comment that "Whatever you think you know about rape is probably wrong," and it's absolutely true. I also liked his inclusion of Mark MacYoung's page, which has a lot of good information, and encourages personal responsibility (for which I'm a huge advocate prior to becoming a victim).
I posed a question here as a focal point to be considered because there are a lot of important pieces of information that are being ignored. Studies have suggested that 3% of women on a university campus in a 9 month period are raped, and as many as 25% of women will experience at least an attempted sexual assault during a degree program.
Let's go ahead and give rape an actual, usable definition: Rape is the commission of a sexual intrusion against another against the victim's will and consent.
Understanding Rape Myths
So let's start out by looking at something called the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (aka IRMA) -- I'm going to pose a series of statements and I want you to consider your answers on a standard Likert Scale of 1 ("Strongly Disgree") to 5("Strongly Agree"). Remember, you're on your own so no one knows your answers:
- If a girl is raped while she is drunk, she is at least somewhat responsible for letting things get out of hand.
- When girls go to parties wearing slutty clothes, they are asking for trouble.
- If a girl goes to a room alone with a guy at a party, it is her own fault if she is raped.
- If a girl acts like a slut, eventually she is going to get into trouble.
- When girls get raped, it’s often because the way they said “no” was unclear.
- If a girl initiates kissing or hooking up, she should not be surprised if a guy assumes she wants to have sex.
- When guys rape, it is usually because of their strong desire for sex.
- Guys don’t usually intend to force sex on a girl, but sometimes they get too sexually carried away.
- Rape happens when a guy’s sex drive goes out of control.
- If a guy is drunk, he might rape someone unintentionally.
- It shouldn’t be considered rape if a guy is drunk and didn’t realize what he was doing.
- If both people are drunk, it can’t be rape.
- If a girl doesn’t physically resist sex — even if protesting verbally — it can’t be considered rape.
- If a girl doesn’t physically fight back, you can’t really say it was rape.
- A rape probably doesn’t happen if a girl doesn’t have any bruises or marks.
- If the accused “rapist” doesn’t have a weapon, you really can’t call it rape.
- If a girl doesn’t say “no” she can’t claim rape.
- A lot of times, girls who say they were raped agreed to have sex and then regret it.
- Rape accusations are often used as a way of getting back at guys.
- A lot of times, girls who say they were raped often led the guy on and then had regrets.
- A lot of times, girls who claim they were raped have emotional problems.
- Girls who are caught cheating on their boyfriends sometimes claim it was rape.
Scoring this is simple: the lower the score, the less susceptible you are to "Rape Myths", those little bits of information that have been passed around as truth about rape for as long as man's existed.
We can use this to heighten our understanding of what rape is, and by sampling this data and it's studied results, we can understand the biases against rape, and look into ways to prevent it through education of well-equiped bystanders and not simply potential victims. FYI, something interesting came out of the study
It is interesting to find that there is a correlation between high scores on this test and a decreased likelihood of intervening in a sexual assault.
The Inadequate Approach of Rape Defense Courses
A very common, almost comical approach approach to Rape Prevention has been the "STOP! RAPE!" then kick to the testicles. Some of the slightly better courses teach women how to bridge and roll.
For the smallest minority of victims, this may be enough. For that minute cluster that actually is the victim of an attack where they see it coming or are capable of performing the poorly trained and hardly practiced movements picked up from a weekend seminar, this is a victory. But it is not enough.
The approach of every Rape Defense course I've encountered has portrayed the same message: "You don't have to be the victim." While this can be good, and even empowering, it is isolating, and puts the burden solely on the victim.
The Psychology of Rape Prevention
A girl is apparently drunk at a frat party and passes out on a couch. The guy sitting next to her puts her arm around his shoulder and stands her up. She's clearly in no condition to resist. She made a mistake; a horrible mistake that is about to follow her for the rest of her life.
It's very easy to think "She needs to be responsible for herself." And yes, she should have. However, now she can't. Maybe it was a big mistake like drinking too much. Maybe it was a small mistake like not keeping a close enough eye on her drink. Either way, one person in a room of dozens is now about to take advantage of her; and all it takes is one of those people to speak up. But will they?
The bystanders in the room are going through a cognitive process as this is happening:
* Noticing the action. (This guy is trying to stand up a drunk girl). [NB: In the social context of a party, based on social norms of what is polite in such situations, a person is less likely to draw attention to a perceived threat. Latane and Darley. 1968]
* Evaluating the Context ("This guy is trying to stand up a drunk girl at a party.") [NB: Even
* Evaluating their degree of responsibility ("I don't know the drunk girl or the guy; they're probably dating.")
* How to assist ("I could intervene directly, but he looks pretty strong; or I could tell someone else and it'd be their responsibility").
* Implementation (Act or don't.)
What is occurring is called the Bystander Effect, notably observed following the brutal murder of Kitty Genovese in which questioned witnesses rationalized away their responsibility in preventing the crime, some claiming they thought it was a loud television, others assuming that other people had already called the police so why should they...
Stanley Milgram (psychologist renowned for his studies of obedience to authority) posits that commonly bystanders present a callous approach to those in need of help due to highly developed coping mechanisms related to the information overload in their daily lives.
Training for the Future
As martial artists, we know the value of repetitive action. By repeatedly drilling a response, we make the response natural, even if it's a reconditioning of an established flinch. Training in rape defense needs to be a reconditioning of established conditioned responses. That is, if we're undertaking the responsibility of leading rape prevention classes, we must do so in a way that is effective and reconditions the students to react in an effective way.
By reconditioning against the Bystander Effect and training women not only how to look out for themselves, but for those around them, rape prevention classes can take on a drastically more effective curriculum.
Considerations for Training
- Awareness - Being aware of community views on Rape Myths can keep you safe. The fact is that even if you answered 5s on all of those questions, there's someone out there who genuinely believes those statements merited a 1, and is willing to act on it given the chance. Encourage awareness of surroundings, and seeking out help before you actually need it. Most parking garages do have security that will escort you to your car. Walking in a pair makes you a much less likely target than walking alone.
- Community - We build communities as means of protection; to protect ourselves by relying on our neighbors. A certain level of responsibility comes from acknowledging this, and looking out for your neighbor means they are looking out for you.
- Action - We need to get out of the habits of the Bystander Effect. We are all guilty of it. Social norms are conditioned responses to common stimulus - "Don't stare", or "Shake hands with the nice man". They are also designed to counter instinctual responses to fear reactions. Drilling the response to pre-assault indicators from a 1st and 3rd person perspective is the only way to prevent the crime from occurring.
- Combatives - We are not training combatives in any effective sense; we need to emphasize that their natural reactions are going to be better for them than half-hearted training, and that combatives are about training empowerment. By encouraging the students to see that they can fight back effectively, they can begin to claim their confidence. Encouraging continued training is a plus. We all make mistakes, and for some people those mistakes come at a horrible price. Resisting when able is imperative, but confidence built up before increases the likelihood that a victim will pursue justice.
[tl;dr – If you're going to teach the "Kick to the Groin" method of rape prevention, you are doing a disservice to your students]