Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Prior Relationship, Resistance, and Injury in Rapes: An Analysis of Crisis Center Records

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Prior Relationship, Resistance, and Injury in Rapes: An Analysis of Crisis Center Records

Article excerpt

Information about the rapes of 2,526 adult females was coded from the records of a rape crisis center to test the hypothesis that physically resisting a stranger would be more strongly related to injury than would physically resisting someone known to the victim. Among other differences, attacks by strangers were more likely to involve a weapon and to occur outdoors than were attacks by nonstrangers, and victims were less likely to physically resist strangers than nonstrangers. Across the entire sample, multivariate analyses revealed that physical resistance was significantly related to injury, even when other factors were held constant. Consistent with the hypothesis, physical resistance was more strongly related to injury when the rapist was a stranger than when the rapist was known to the victim.

Of the estimated 154,000 attempted and completed rapes that occur every year, surveys indicate women resist in over 80% of the cases (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1985). Whether or not victims should resist during a sexual assault and whether or not the resistance should involve force depend on the perceived value and probability of the particular outcomes being considered.

Thus, for example, those who advocate resistance (e.g., Bart & O'Brien, 1985; Csida & Csida, 1971; Medea & Thompson, 1974; Selkin, 1975) are likely to believe that the value and probability of avoiding rape are high and that serious injury is relatively unlikely, even if the risk of some physical injury is increased by forceful resistance (Block & Skogan, 1986). In contrast, those who oppose resistance (e.g., Storaska, 1975) are likely to place primary emphasis on avoiding serious injury, even if its probability is low, and secondary emphasis on avoiding rape. In addition to conflicting values, advice given to women on how to avoid rape is further muddled by research that is marred by shortcomings in the size and representativeness of the research sample and by questions about the accuracy of the information provided by the respondents.

The ideal study of the effects of resistance would include detailed interviews of a large random sample of victims of both attempted and completed sexual assaults conducted soon after the crime occurred, as well as interviews of their assailants and any witnesses. However, due to the nature of the problem, any one research study can only approximate these criteria. In this article, our focus is on the relationship between resistance and injury and whether this relationship is different when the rapist is acquainted with the victim than when he is a stranger to her. We review the relevant research and then present analyses of data from 2,526 sexual assaults of adult females.


Even though victimization surveys suggest that 62% of completed rapes are by strangers (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1985), most studies have examined stranger rapes only or have involved such small samples that no comparisons between stranger and nonstranger rapes could be made. Two studies that have compared attacks by strangers to attacks by nonstrangers were conducted by McDermott (1979) and Williams (1984). Using National Crime Survey data, McDermott reported that, compared to attacks by nonstrangers, rapes by strangers tended to occur more often outdoors and less often in the victims' own homes and tended to involve weapons more often. She found that about the same proportion of victims of strangers and victims of nonstrangers used some form of resistance, but that victims of strangers were more likely to report needing medical help than were victims of nonstrangers.

In the second study, Williams (1984) compared the effects on injury of resistance against strangers or nonstrangers using the records of 246 victims who visited a rape crisis center in Seattle. Results showed that women raped by friends or relatives were less likely to receive a severe threat, to experience force, or to be injured than were women raped by strangers. …

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