The Weirdness Of Being Expected To Fight During A Sexual Assault

October 12, 2016

One thing that I find absolutely fascinating about sexual assault is that, in my experience, in certain situations you are asked a barrage of questions along the lines of, “Did you fight back?” “Did you kick him?” “Did you scream in his face?” “Did you punch him?” “What did you do to try to get away?”

And this is the only crime I know of (and I could be totally incorrect here, please feel free to comment), but it’s the only crime I know of where you can be admonished for not fighting…

If I were being kidnapped on the street, and I was terrified of attacking the person, or maybe I didn’t think I was strong enough to overpower him, would that change his chances of being convicted when I was found?

If I were being mugged and I was too afraid or shocked in the moment to fight back, would I not be able to report my purse as stolen property?

There are many reasons not to “fight back” when someone is having sex with you when you don’t want it…

Maybe you’re in shock. Maybe you’re terrified – not necessarily just of him physically in that moment. You might be afraid of repercussions from him, or being punished (physically, or in other harmful ways) in the future.

You might be afraid that if you do fight back… what if you actually do get free, but in the process you seriously injure him – and he calls the cops. All of a sudden are you the one who’s going to be in trouble?

There are 1,000 reasons to be scared.

Someone grabbed me in a subway once and I whipped around to potentially fight him, but he was already running away…

Someone tried to stop me on the street and usher me into his car, and I got away as fast as I could (without laying a hand on him, partially thanks to a stranger who saw and looked out for me).

Those are two different scenarios – both scary, both inappropriate. And I am the same person in both. And yet, in one, I tried to fight and in one I tried to flee, because while making a split-second decision of what’s going to protect you, sometimes it seems safer not to fight.

[Side note: In all my reading, and talking with a therapist (and before her, a helpline), and other women, I learned something I thought was really interesting, which is that we generally learn that our bodies have “fight or flight” as our options when we’re under stress… But really we actually have fight, or flight, or freeze, or appease. And oftentimes people freeze or appease… (Those are definitely the two I learned toward – and two that I think many women are sometimes trained to do…)]

Anyway, I’m maybe tangenting a little… My point is, I find it odd that sexual assault is the one crime where people seem to expect this vigilante justice… And it doesn’t seem 100% fair to me.

4 thoughts on “The Weirdness Of Being Expected To Fight During A Sexual Assault”

  1. I know a couple of women who fought off attempted rapists, but even they say that everything happened so fast and it was more reflex than rational decision to fight. Indeed, fighting someone who is bigger and stronger than you can be incredibly dangerous and you’re totally right that nobody is expected to risk their life fighting off a mugger or whoever.

  2. You were sexually assaulted, and a lot – possibly all – of your manic, self-involved and restless behavior in the years since that assault has been informed by that event. I hope you will seek professional counseling instead of writing a blog. You need to be still, quiet your mind, and find someone to help you work through what happened to you. There is no stranger who will comment on the internet – myself included – who can help you recover from something this deeply buried, this constantly suppressed, this swept under the rug in fear and pain; you need help from a trained human being, face to face, in person, for as long as it takes. Until then, you are not saving your life – you are living a death, regardless of how much you fill it up with nonstop activity.

    1. Hi Marcella, thank you for commenting… I can’t quite tell if you’re trying to be mean in your comment… (Self-involved, manic, and restless sounds a bit mean), of if you’re trying to be constructive…

      I suppose this may not be clear (though I’ve tried to make it somewhat clear)… But I was sexually assaulted in the spring of this year, and that is the one that has affected me deeply for various reasons. The one from college didn’t phase me.

      I think it’s a story that sort of helps inform things, as I begin to talk more about sexual assault on my blog. So, I feel like there is a point in sharing it. But it has not affected me deeply. And I haven’t spent the last many years of my life trying to erase one man I barely knew having sex with me when I asked him not to. (Though I am certainly not making a judgement if anyone else has had trouble for years with a similar situation… Different people are affected by assault differently…)

      I would assume you’ve seen a fair amount of my blog to be able to put my behavior under a big umbrella of negative adjectives. So, I’m kind of making the assumption that you know I was in and out of the hospital for a year in college as well. My only point in saying that is I’ve gone through other things in my life. So, I think it is an overstatement to say that my whole life revolves around that one experience you mention.

      Also, I am proud of many of the projects I’ve done in the last number of years.

      I’m sorry if you see my whole life as self-involved…

      As far as getting help goes, if it makes you feel better, I am in professional counseling because – while I don’t believe my whole entire life revolves around one event – being assaulted this year was exceptionally tough and I do need help dealing with that (even if it feels slightly embarrassing to admit that).

      I also believe that everyone deals with everything that happens in their life in different ways. While, if you’re trying to be helpful, I appreciate your advice, I don’t think that being still and quiet works for everyone. I choose to write a blog about my life. I believe that not only does it help me, but also some other people tell me they enjoy reading it. So, this is what I choose to do. Others may choose to be quiet. That’s not me.

      Lastly, it hurt my feelings that you label my life “living a death.” I feel like that’s a big thing to tell someone, and it’s certainly not something I feel about my own life at all. While this year has admittedly been very tough, I feel like I’ve most often lived life to the fullest, and for the most part, I greatly enjoy my life.

      Have a good night.

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