First of all, resistance is very seldom talked about, it features so rarely in the media, or other accounts of rape that it’s as if victims don’t resist. So you won’t be having it in your mind when you give your account of the rape you withstood. So many victims I speak to tell me “I didn’t do anything”, however using the questions below we always find that they resisted as much as possible, whenever possible.
Secondly, many of you probably will say “I should have fought harder”. We tend to compare what we did to some sort of ideal version of resistance, and because our resistance was not ‘ideal’ in our view, or did not succeed in stopping the rape we discount it. This is so unfair and it deprives us of vital understanding and recognition.
It’s as if we are saying “because I didn’t stop it, it means I didn’t resist. I should have been able to stop it. If I did not resist it means I wanted it, it means I am partly to blame.” By denying the value of our efforts we end up blaming ourselves.
The fact is you did not want it – you resisted as much as possible given the circumstances, you did not stop it or prevent it because you could not. If you could have prevented it, if you could have stopped it – you would have.
Of course, we always wish we had done more, we wish we could have stopped it but the fact that we did not doesn’t mean we didn’t try hard enough. You did what you could, all that you could at the time and recognizing all your many acts of resistance is vital in helping you not to blame yourself, as long as you don’t compare your actions to an idealised and all-powerful idea of perfect resistance.
Look at the definition again: ANY EFFORT. It doesn’t have to be showy and spectacular to fit the definition of resistance. It doesn’t have to succeed to be called an act of resistance.
In fact the more intense the violence the more we keep our resistance hidden because fighting openly could mean more violence. Then our resistance becomes very private, hidden away in the privacy of our minds. For example, like mentally trying to leave the room by thinking of something else, by trying to disappear inside ourself.
This kind of more private resistance is not often recognised or talked about and if you are planning to talk about your experience of rape, consider describing it as well.
Often when women come to tell me about abuse or rape they describe to me what the rapist did, but they haven’t thought about what they themselves did. Thinking about what you did, what you felt, what went on in your mind; that is, how you responded and how you resisted, gives you the chance to acknowledge and to value your personal resourcefulness.
It also clarifies that you did not consent to the rape or the abuse.
If you do not talk about how you resisted rape – the police and the prosecution might not either. If you do not talk about how you resisted rape it could look like you didn’t – it could look like it wasn’t rape but that you consented.
So do think about how you responded at every step of the way, and in every way you could and you will see there were things that you thought, that you did, that you didn’t do, which were aimed to prevent, limit or stop the rape or the abuse.