37 Soc. Probs. 149 (1990)
Rape and Resistance

handle is hein.journals/socprob37 and id is 159 raw text is: Rape and Resistance*

GARY KLECK, Florida State University
SUSAN SAYLES, Florida State University
What are the consequences when rape victims resist rapists? Analysis of a nationally representative sample of
rape incidents reported in the National Crime Surveys for 1979 to 1985 yields the following findings: (1)
Victims who resist are much less likely to have the rape completed against them than nonresisting victims, a
pattern generally apparent regardless of the specific form of resistance; (2) The form of resistance that appears
most effective in preventing rape completion is resistance with a gun, knife, or other weapon; (3) Most forms of
resistance are not significantly associated with higher rates of victim injury. The exceptions are unarmed forceful
resistance and threatening or arguing with the rapist; (4) Even these two forms of resistance probably do not
generally provoke rapists to injure their victims, as ancillary evidence concerning assaults and robberies indicates
that resistance rarely precedes injury. Attack against the victim appears to provoke victim resistance, rather
than the reverse; (5) Only about three percent of rape incidents involve some additional injury that could be
described as serious. Thus it is the rape itself that is nearly always the most serious injury the victim suffers.
Consequently, refraining from resistance in order to avoid injury in addition to the rape is a questionable
tradeoff.
Rape is a crime of domination. The feminist-conflict perspective notes that the traditional
socialization process of young women promotes the assumption of the characteristics of being
a victim. Women are taught to win a man by being passive and subservient, and to avoid the
display of skills traditionally thought to be masculine, including those of self-defense
(Brownmiller 1975; Bart 1981). For years women were advised to submit to a rapist in order
to avoid injury, while society paradoxically demanded evidence of struggle to prove the sex-
ual encounter was nonconsensual (Amir 1971; Brownmiller 1975; Schwendinger and
Schwendinger 1983; Chappell, Geis, and Geis 1977).
Advice to victims commonly focused largely on the risks of additional injury to the vic-
tim beyond the rape itself. An alternative view focuses on what affects the completion of the
rape attempt. Victim resistance makes rape completion more difficult, i.e. it raises the costs of
rape. It increases the effort required of the rapist to complete the act, and it can prolong the
time required and thereby increase the risk of discovery by other parties and of capture by the
police. Further, when resistance is forceful, it can raise the probability of the offender suffer-
ing injury and pain. Simple economic, behaviorist and deterrence perspectives would predict
that resistance should, other things being equal, reduce the probability of the completion of
the rape attempt. Predictions concerning the effect of resistance on injury are not so clear.
In this paper we review prior research on the consequence of victim resistance to rape,
and use victim survey data to assess the effects of various forms of resistance on the
probability of rape completion and of additional injury to the victim.
* This article is a revised version of a paper read at the annual meetings of the American Society of criminology in
Chicago, Illinois, 10 November 1988. The authors wish to thank Don Kates and David Bordua for reading and
commenting on previous drafts. The data utilized in this paper were made available by the Inter-university Consortium
for Political and Social Research (1987). The data were originally collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Neither the
collector of the original data nor the Consortium bear any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented
here. Correspondence to: Kleck, School of Criminology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS, Vol. 37, No. 2, May 1990  149

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