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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sexual Assualt Prevention

This video, and some analysis, was posted over at the Combative Corner.

Warning: This video depicts the initial stages of a sexual assault. While it is footage from a movie, it is still powerful and disturbing.

The video was posted with a discussion of what Amy (Kate's character) could have done differently. I started working on my own response to that, but something kept bugging me. I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I took the dog for a walk yesterday afternoon (side note: having a dog grants you an amazing opportunity to have some thinking time every day. Surprisingly useful, that.)

The thing that bugs me is this.

All of the responses were about physical tactics: lock the door, get an improvised weapon, strike, use a triangle choke...everything proposed was a physical response. Which is fine, except that this video is a perfect example of how self-defense is not solely a physical problem.

Amy doesn't fail to defend herself because she lacks a physical skill set. She fails to defend herself because she lacks a psychological skill set. All of the strikes, eye-gouges, and triangle chokes in the world wouldn't have availed her anything, because she didn't understand how to work past her fear and get motivated enough to DO something.

Look at the dynamic of the scene. Amy knows (hey look, intuition at work) from the moment she opens the door that there is something wrong. If she didn't, Charlie provides plenty of clear pre-contact cues, from forcing his way inside, to repeatedly ignoring Amy's demands that he leave, to comments about her appearance and smell, sexual innuendo, and insults to her husband's manhood...short of wearing a sign that says "I am here to rape you", Charlie is pretty clear about his intentions from the moment that door opens.

The issue isn't that Amy doesn't know that something is wrong. It isn't that she lacks a physical skill set. The issue is that Amy is too paralyzed by fear to be able to do anything. She could have been a ninja commando MMA goddess, but without the knowledge to motivate herself and act, any theoretical skill set is useless.

The psychological, not the physical arsenal is the one that is lacking here.


Maija said...

Fear can do this but also, as Rory Miller has observed, staying in one's social brain - "It would be rude to not let him in" "What if I'm over reacting? I'd offend him" "If I'm nice maybe he'll realize I'm a good person and not do anything". Basically mistaking predatory violence for social.
Being physically at a disadvantage, and yes, size does matter, one has to deal with situations earlier.
There are ways to psychologically break the rapists intent I think, but it's a far riskier proposition requiring a much calmer head.
The last line of defense is physically fighting.
Them not getting into the house in the first place would have been the best solution.

Jake said...

I think you and I are the same page; staying in one's social brain is, I think, just another form of FEAR.

Size definitely matters (G-d, I HATE that piece of mythology), and yeah, earlier is better.

Psychologically breaking the rapist's intent *seems* really tough to me. I have no actual experience doing this, so I don't really know, but it certainly sounds more challenging. I have a vague recollection of a story (from Tony Blauer, I think) of a woman who worked as a nurse stopping an attempted date rape by looking at her assailant and saying "What the hell is wrong with you?! You need help!" in a very authoritative tone. Tough to replicate for most people, I suspect (if it even memory of this is fuzzy).

The bad guy in this scene takes not letting him in the house off the table REAL fast. She does actually try to shut the door (though not very hard), but he has his foot in there pre-emptively. Hard to see the set up of the house, but closing the door against him might be tough. There is a point when he walks in where she "has his back" and could run or attack, but that requires a lot of tactical awareness to pull off...

Maija said...

Social brain is not always fear, it is deep, deep, conditioning. From Rory again, women have learned, as have the younger and weaker in general, that submissive behavior, and showing a lack of threat, are good survival techniques ... fine when it's about hierarchy, but the opposite of what you need when being chased by a predator. This is a huge problem I think, and being able to recognize the difference is huge, let alone be able to do something about it.
As far as the psychology of diverting the assailant, like you said, very tricky and risky, but if you have nothing else ...
Anyway, I have a few options that have come from different sources. A friend who lived in NYC back in the 70s said if she was on the subway and started to feel unwanted attention on her, she'd pick her nose and eat the booger, or start mumbling to herself, using sharp jerky movements to mimic being crazy.
Another example, not directly related to sexual assault, but to get the thinking process clear, a friend who kept getting his car broken into in front of his home (bad neighborhood) didn't know if there was any way of stopping it happening. A friend suggested putting a sign in the window saying 'I have AIDS'. Don't know if he ever did, but you can see the psychological concept.
Use fear and superstition. In a potential sexual assault I'd probably use sickness, craziness, grossness or superstition.
Who knows what might work, or if it would, but even if it bought you enough hesitation/time to grab the kitchen knife/get out the door then cool. Seems like you have nothing to lose.

Jake said...

Some of this, I think, is just about definitions. To me, social conditioning is a form of fear, or at least, fits into the way we define fear in our system.

To summarize, fear is (or can be) visualizing a negative outcome in the future that immobilizes you in the present.

From that perspective, the social conditioning, or at least, the thought process that says "don't be rude, what if I'm over-reacting", etc. is a form of fear. The fear is based on conditioning, but it's still fear.

I hope that makes sense. I agree with you that the social conditioning is a huge part of that problem/though process.

Faking craziness, using fear and superstition are all good strategies if you can manage it. Just like all other strategies, they take some practice.

A lot of things end up being contextual--this particular video had an assailant who clearly knew his victim, which makes faking craziness tough (the bad guy already knows you're not crazy). Faking illness might work, I suppose.

Totally agree with the "seems like you have nothing to lose" viewpoint.