For Women, Rape Defense Should Be a Mandatory Class in Modern Survival

Susan's Story (Part 2)

Rape Victim Turned Crusader Preaching the Necessity for Rape Defense Training to Women Everywhere

How can the life of one rape defense instructor be changed by one woman - a woman he didn't know - one he had accidently encountered in a fast food restaurant almost two decades ago? How can meeting and listening to her speak for less than an hour, forever change the way he thought about and taught women's self defense and rape prevention?

In part 1 of this story, we met someone I called Susan, a victim of rape, who I met very briefly almost twenty years ago.

To read Part 1 of this story - about Susan's assault and her passionate crusade to get women to get self defense training (go here).

After the attack, Susan said she felt alone, dirty, lost, and ashamed. She didn't want anybody to find out that such a horrible thing was done to her. But, she also knew that the outward, physical damage made it difficult to hide. She couldn't understand how and why this happened - to her. To her. Why her? She wasn't one of the 'pretty' girls. Her body wasn't anything that Hollywood would seek out. She dressed conservatively. And, most importantly, she didn't resist - she didn't give her attacker a reason to beat her.

But, this was just the tip of the iceburg. Susan later found that, as the physical wounds were healing, the mental and emotional ones were only just beginning to appear - and these wounds would literally tear apart the very fabric of her life. Because, for Susan, the common belief that "what you don't know won't hurt you" - did!

The most noteable damage done by the rape was not the one described by legal definition. It had little to do with the unwanted entry of this animal into her body. The greatest damage done was the eventual disconnection from every man that she cared about in her life. Susan said, "Over the course of the first year after I was raped, I slowly broke all ties to the men in my life. My dad, my husband, and my brothers. Everyone." "I couldn't look at a man without seeing my attacker, or another potential one," she said.

In fact, it wasn't until her therapist suggested that she join a support group to see how other women were coping that she found that her situation was not unique, and, that not every woman who is raped goes through the same kind of post-assault trauma that she had, and was, experiencing. In fact, she found through her discussions with others who had been raped that the quality of information and preparation that the woman had before the assault, and the level and quality of resistance they put up during the attack, even when the rape considered successful and they couldn't escape, was a direct indicator of what determined the fate of that woman afterward.

Let me say that again: The quality of information and preparation that a woman has before the assault, and the level of resistance during the attack, even when the rape is successful and they couldn't escape, determined the fate of that woman afterward.

Susan began to read everything she could on the subject of rape. She talked to victims. She talked to self-defense experts. She looked at the crime statistics - not just for how many rapes were committed but, where, why, and how whether the woman fought back and how that afffected the outcome. Ultimately, Susan found that, after talking to tens, then hundreds and eventually thousands of woman and experts on the subject that, a woman who is prepared and engaging in preplanned, effective resistance - even if she loses the fight - is by far and above more emotionally and mentally intact, often more so, than her sister who complied with or offered little more than instinctive, non-effective resistence against a man who was bigger, stronger, and more intent.

In fact, she found that even the wording used by women to describe the crime and their post-attack condition was different. Women who had done everything they could to resist the attack, even if they were raped anyway, were more likely to identify themselves as "rape survivors" or "someone who had been raped." On the contrary, women who were completely caught off-guard, unprepared and either offered little to no strategic resistance that would work against her assailant or, followed the logic that says "just lie there and let him do it," more often than not called themselves "rape victims."

The differences ran even deeper. Rape survivors describe their incident openly, often even bragging about what they did to their attacker. They are involved to the same extent with the men in their lives as they were before they were attacked because, to them, these men were not and are not their attacker. Do they carry a reminder or are they extra cautious? Probably. But, more because of the validation that it "can" and "did" happen to them and might again. Their motto was and is: "Be prepared and give it all you got!"

Rape victims, on the other hand, typically engage in an ineffective attempt to forget the whole thing. They avoid the topic or try to cover up scars with a false front of confidence, all the while peering out of their newly-built fortress with paranoia, shame and guilt. The fear that it "will" happen again may prompt them to take some type of self-defense training, but all too often they merely withdraw from or punish the world, especially men, out of need to put distance between themselves and the haunting image, feel, smell, and presence of their attacker.

As the couple got up to leave the restaurant on that day almost twenty years ago, I can still hear Susan telling them both to, "stop believing that it will never happen to you." "That's what I thought," she said. To the woman, she said, "You find someone who knows what's really going on, and how to teach a woman how to protect herself. Get some training. Even if you never need it, isn't it better to be prepared than to find yourself lying there like me, not knowing what to do, and wishing you did?"

Turning to the man, she said, "And, if you really love her, you will either help her or make her get that training." Then, her face and body noticeably changing as the passion melted into compassion, Susan sent them on their way with a heartfelt, "please."

At the time this story took place, I was learning self-defense and martial arts myself. As I progressed in rank and ability to the point where I was the teacher, I made sure that I knew everything I could about the way women are attacked, about the crime of rape and the rapist's mindset, and about what did and did not work, in a real-world situation. Just as students owe it to themselves to demand that the person they trust to teach them self defense has, not just knowledge but experience as well; I owe it to those who put their trust in me to give them real solutions, not empty, unproven theory.

When I started thinking about the how I would write an article about rape prevention and defense, several ideas came to mind. And then, thinking about what I share during a seminar or talk that makes the subject real for my listeners, this story came to me out of the past. Let's face it, how many women think that a man can relate to a typically women's concern like rape? I can't relate on a personal level because I don't fear being raped. I do fear that my three daughter, wife, and two grand-daughters might be. And, thanks to 'Susan,' I think about it clearly and correctly.

I think about that day every once in a while and share this story at talks, seminars, and presentations about women's self defense and rape prevention. I occasionally wonder what ever happened to that woman who made it her mission to open the eyes of others and silently wish for her sake that she found the peace she had lost. I think about her bravery in looking beyond her own experience, instead of doing what most in her dituation do - hiding in fear and avoiding the consequences as though they would just go away.

But, it wasn't until about half way through writing this article for you that I realized that, from across time, Susan's words - her story - has influenced the way I have approached the subject of self defense, especially for women, from the very beginning. One woman, in her own attempt to recover from a life changing situation, had changed mine. And in turn, I have, in my own way, continued her crusade to enlighten and empower women to take action, know the that the threat is real, and to drop the illusions and delusions that it will never happen to them.

Thank you Susan, from all of us who continue to listen.

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Jeffrey M. Miller

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