Issues Surrounding Force and Resistance

Issues Surrounding Force and Resistance

Issues Surrounding Force and Resistance
Issues Surrounding Force and Resistance

In the not-so-distant past, in order to convict a rapist, a woman had to convince a jury that she forcefully resisted to her utmost and ceased strug- gling only because she feared she would be killed or seriously injured. The justification cited for requir- ing such proof of fierce resistance was that signs of a struggle indicated the victim’s state of mind (unwillingness) and refuted the defendant’s claims that he reasonably believed his partner was feigning reluctance and was agreeing to engage in sex. Most state laws no longer require that the woman who wants to press charges must prove that she risked her life to fend off her attacker. A reasonableness standard stipulates that the degree of resistance that expresses lack of consent can depend on the

352 CH APT ER 10

Copyright 2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203

circumstances. A strong verbal statement or an unambiguous physical act is sufficient to show lack of consent in the face of overwhelming force or an intimidating weapon. The woman does not have to fight back, scream, or try to flee. Evidence that the accused possessed a weapon or that the complainant was physically injured also is sufficient to establish nonconsent (Robin, 1977; Stark and Goldstein, 1985; and Austern, 1987).

Although they may be emotionally devastated, most females who were sexually assaulted were not so severely injured that they needed to seek some type of treatment for their wounds. However, a disturbing trend was detected: A little over 25 per- cent sought medical care during the period 1994– 1998, but 35 percent needed to see a doctor from 2005 to 2010, according to a study of NCVS findings (Planty and Langton, 2013).

How a victim reacts during the sexual assault can profoundly influence the outcome in terms of her injuries. Her behavior—either submission or resistance—affects the attacker’s decisions whether to try to complete the act and about how much force to use to subdue her. Most assailants were unarmed: Only about 10 percent had a gun, knife, or other weapon, according to an analysis of NCVS findings from 2005 to 2010 (Planty and Langton, 2013). (Roughly two decades earlier, about 20 percent of all assailants had guns, knives, or other sharp instru- ments, according to an analysis of NCVS data from 1987 until 1992 [Bachman, 1994].)

Most women who took some type of self- protective action, such as yelling for help or fighting back, told survey interviewers that they believed it helped their situation (61 percent) rather than made it worse (17 percent) (Bachman, 1994). Women who resisted improved their chances of thwarting the rapists’ aims of completing the act, but unfortu- nately they also increased their risks of suffering a physical injury. One-third of the nonresisting vic- tims were wounded in addition to being sexually assaulted. In contrast, two-thirds of victims who applied self-defense measures were physically hurt—bruised, cut, scratched, even stabbed or shot—according to a study of NCVS data from the late 1970s (McDermott, 1979).

Studies assessing the relative effectiveness of various responses have generated mixed, confus- ing, and perhaps impractical recommendations. It is impossible to predict the outcome of a particular assault, given the complex web of factors involving the offender, his intended victim, and their situa- tion at that moment. One study of 125 victim’s responses concluded that the best strategy turned out to be a dual verbal defense of calling out for help while simultaneously attempting to reason with, plead with, or threaten the attacker. Nearly all of the women who physically resisted their assailants reported that their actions made the men angrier, more vicious, and more violent (Cohen, 1984).

But at least one factor in the equation has chan- ged to the advantage of those under attack. Whether or not fiercely resisting “within reason” is the best strategy under all circumstances, it is no longer required to justify an arrest and prosecution.

The apparent acquiescence of some victims can be readily explained. The primary reaction of nearly all intended targets is to fear for their lives, accord- ing to interviews conducted at a hospital emergency room (Burgess and Holmstrom, 1974). Therefore, some females are simply immobilized by terror, shock, and disbelief. Faced with the prospect of death or severe physical injury, many conclude that their only way out is to strike a bargain or work out a tacit understanding with the attacker and trade submission for survival (that is, to endure sexual violation in return for some sort of pledge that they won’t be killed, savagely beaten, or cruelly disfigured). There is, of course, no guarantee that compliance will minimize physical injury. Rapists do not have to keep their promises (Brownmiller, 1975).

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *