Women (and men) can dramatically improve their odds of avoiding sexual assault if they are armed with accurate information. Specifically, information about what typically happens in the mind of the perpetrator prior to a sexual assault. Part One and Part Two give the background for this post.
Awareness gives women the capacity to apply their knowledge for the thousands of potential scenarios she may find herself in. Tactical Sexual Assault Prevention is meant to be a dynamic approach; allowing women to apply knowledge gained in a variety of situations. This shouldn’t be seen as a cook book approach, or a step-wise process. This rigid approach is doomed to fail, as there is no “one size fits all” sexual assault. A woman must be armed with knowledge she can wield in a manner she sees fit as a dangerous situation unfolds before her.
The sex-as-a-tool-for-power, duct tape wielding, bush hiding rapist is very real, but definitely in the minority of sexual perpetrators. Training women to deal with this type of person is very limited in scope, thereby reducing effectiveness. The model below was developed by a guy named David Finkelhor, and it describes the four barriers a perpetrator must overcome in order to sexually assault somebody.
Barrier 1: Motivation
Motivation refers to the desire somebody must possess to sexually assault another person. Possible motivators could be:
-Seeing a woman as a sexual object
-Acting out sexual thoughts and fantasies
-Recreating excitement they may have felt from sexual abuse they endured when they were young
-Reenacting sexual abuse they experienced as a “get back” or a power grab
-Sexual release acts as an effective, temporary “pick me up” for emotional problems
-Lack of confidence around people their own age, level of inebriation, or mental capacity.
Barrier 2: Internal
The internal barrier is basically your conscience, i.e., Jiminy Cricket, or the “still, small, voice.” Basically, a perpetrator has to delude themselves in to thinking what they are doing is okay. Believe it or not, most sexual perpetrators are not sociopaths. They do have a conscience, but they’ve managed to squash it down or ignore it. They may tell themselves:
-“She wants it.”
-“It won’t hurt.”
-“She won’t remember.”
-“She seems okay with it.”
-“I won’t get caught.”
-“She won’t tell.”
-“I’m ONLY doing (seemingly less damaging behavior), it’s not like I’m doing… (seemingly more damaging behavior)”
-“Just this once.”
-“She’ll be in to it once I start.”
Barrier 3: External
The external barrier refers to any environmental limitations that prevents a sexual assault from happening. Overcoming external barriers may be seen as:
-Getting potential victim away from the presence of other people
-Regular access to the potential victim (social media, texting, sexting)
-Being alone, out of the line of sight of others
-Ensuring the victim is out of earshot
-Luring victims in to risky environments, i.e. bars, clubs, parties and/or remote areas
Barrier 4: Overcoming Victim’s Resistance
If a sexual perpetrator has the desire to act out sexually, succeeded in quieting their own conscience by talking themselves in to sexually abusing somebody, and has managed to put himself and the potential victim in a situation where he won’t get caught, he still has to overcome the victim’s natural resistance to being sexually abused. Overcoming victim’s resistance may be done in a variety of manners, i.e. force, bribes, coercion, intoxicating substances, sexual pressure, threats, and manipulation. Examples are:
-Intentionally intoxicating her
-Putting her in a position to where she feels she is obligated to perform sexually
-Physically forcing, or implying violence or aggressive acts
-Playing on the potential victim’s vulnerability
-“We’ve come this far, don’t make me stop now.”
-“If you don’t do (sexual act), then I’ll tell people (something incriminating).”
-“You led me on! You have to now. Don’t be like that!”
-“I’ll send all those pictures you took to your family if you don’t (sexual act).”
So, I realize I didn’t offer much of what to do with the information provided. I could offer suggestions for each situation, but again, that would be following the cookie cutter approach that dooms a lot of these programs to fail. Anything you can do to disrupt the perpetrator’s thought process at any point throughout the four barriers will improve the chances of evading assault. Being able to “put yourself in the perpetrator’s shoes” may sound bizarre, but in this context, should be considered as a method for deterring assault.