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Predator Redux

November 24, 2009

Meet The Predators, which featured a 2002 study co-authored by psychology professor David Lisak, has attracted a lot of attention and links in the last few weeks. To all those who have picked this up and discussed his findings, thank you. I think what he was able to show, and what McWhorter’s Navy study replicated, is very, very important stuff and the more exposure it gets the more difference it can make.

Lisak is not new to rape and interpersonal violence research, however. It is a major topic of his career-long body of work. Melissa McEwen at Shakesville (who linked Meet the Predators) has posted about Lisak’s work before, and I’ve been doing some more reading.

The last time I discussed Lisak’s work, I focused on the proportion of the population are the serial predators: a limited group within the population who are recidivist rapists, and who account for the overwhelming majority of rapes, and for a large portion of the child abuse and molestation and the intimate partner violence.

Cara (my fellow Yes Means Yes blog and book contributor), over at her regular blog The Curvature, noted important qualifications to Lisak’s 2002 results, which is that they only capture the undetected rapists who fall within the four questions of his survey. I agree with that, so this is an undercount and a limited set. There are methodological limitations that are going to fail to capture some rapists in any survey, and so the 2002 study should be read with its limitations in mind.

That said, Lisak has other important work out there. He has analyzed who these men are in some depth. Like the population figures, I suspect his analysis will come as confirmation rather than new information to many of our readers here.

[Trigger warning — discussion of rape including modus operandi]
The analysis I want to focus on is this paper, Understanding The Predatory Nature Of Sexual Violence. It is on the web in several locations, though I have not seen a journal cite for it anywhere. A review of the references shows, however, that it is based on peer-reviewed literature, including Lisak’s own prior work.

Lisak says that the research on the psychological characteristics of incarcerated rapists also applies to the undetected:

Many of the motivational factors that were identified in incarcerated rapists have been shown to apply equally to undetected rapists. When compared to men who do not rape, these undetected rapists are measurably more angry at women, more motivated by the need to dominate and control women, more impulsive and disinhibited in their behavior, more hyper-masculine in their beliefs and attitudes, less empathic and more antisocial.

Guys with rigid views of gender roles and an axe to grind against women in general are overrepresented among rapists. That won’t come as a surprise to most readers here, I expect. But it is important confirmation. Guys who seem to hate women … do. If they sound like they don’t like or respect women and see women as impediments to be overcome … they’re telling the truth. That’s what they think, and they will abuse if they think they can get away with it.

Lisak doesn’t actually say this, but having read some of his work in depth now, I really think the major difference between the incarcerated and the non-incarcerated rapists are that the former cannot or do not confine themselves to tactics that are low-risk to them. The undetected rapists overwhelmingly use minimal or no force, rely mostly on alcohol and rape their acquaintances. They create situations where the culture will protect them by making excuses for them and questioning or denying their victims. Incarcerated rapists, I think, are just the ones who use the tactics that society is more willing to recognize as rape and less willing to make excuses for.

It is the modus operandi that keeps the undetected rapist undetected: they correctly identify a methodology that will put them under the protection of the rape culture. They are unlikely to be convicted because the story doesn’t fit the script. In fact, they are unlikely to be arrested because the story doesn’t lead to easy convictions. In fact, they are unlikely to be reported because rape survivors know that the tactics these men use leave them with little real recourse. In fact, these rapists may put the victim in a position where she is so intoxicated or terrified or just isolated and defeated that she never even says “no,” and because the culture overwhelmingly refuses to call these tactics what they are, even the victims themselves may be unable to call it rape for a very long time afterward, if ever.

Lisak describes the characteristics of their methodology:

In the course of 20 years of interviewing these undetected rapists, in both research and forensic settings, it has been possible for me to distill some of the common characteristics of the modus operandi of these sex offenders. These undetected rapists:
• are extremely adept at identifying “likely” victims, and testing prospective victims’ boundaries;
• plan and premeditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims for attack, and to isolate them physically;
• use “instrumental” not gratuitous violence; they exhibit strong impulse
control and use only as much violence as is needed to terrify and coerce their victims into submission;
• use psychological weapons – power, control, manipulation, and threats – backed up by physical force, and almost never resort to weapons such as knives or guns;
use alcohol deliberately to render victims more vulnerable to attack, or completely unconscious.

[Emphasis mine.]

This isn’t quite a user’s guide to finding the rapists at a party, but it is an identifiable set of characteristics that have some implications and allow some educated guesses.

As Lisak says:

This picture conflicts sharply with the widely-held view that rapes committed on university campuses are typically the result of a basically “decent” young man who, were it not for too much alcohol and too little communication, would never do such a thing. While some campus rapes do fit this more benign view, the evidence points to a far less benign reality, in which the vast majority of rapes are committed by serial, violent predators.

[Emphasis mine.]

My first takeaway from this is that it may help some survivors to know this. I’ve seen and heard so many women beat themselves up about what they could or should have done — usually with no end of “help” in the self-flagellation. It might help some survivors of these kinds of rapes to know that they were not stupid and they didn’t make a mistake; that they were in overwhelming probability targeted and harmed deliberately by someone who has planned and maybe practiced a routine of testing, intoxication and isolation. Survivors shouldn’t feel like suckers.

My second takeaway is the implications for prevention. In a culture where women bear all the responsibility for preventing rape, it is difficult to even talk about rape prevention. I like this approach, which puts the responsibility where it should be — on the rapist. It’s clever. But as Lisak says (see below), rapists are not doing it by accident, and educating them is not going to make them stop. Telling women to walk to their cars with keys in their hands and all the other stranger rape advice deals with just the one kind of rape that is a small sliver of the total, and that has the greatest probablility of being reported and successfully prosecuted — so even if those tips were all very useful in that context, it ignores the much more common context: the serial predators that go after women they know, and use alcohol as their main tool.

Finally, while it’s easy for me as a teetotaler to say that we all shouldn’t drink, telling women not to use the social drug that this society overwhelmingly incorporates into its rituals is basically returning to a Victorian separate-spheres notion. That’s second-class citizenship, and using the threat of violence to enforce second-class citizenship is terrorism. We cannot negotiate with terrorists.

But simply saying, “there’s nothing women can do” is defeatist. I’ve said many times in response to the usual “I’m not blaming her but she …” trolling that women are already doing everything they know how to keep from getting raped, short of giving up living their lives. And that’s true. However, Lisak’s research may provide more know-how in identifying and escaping rapists.

Avoiding a rapist does more than just cause him to pick another target. If rapists can’t rape at minimal risk, they have a choice between either raping fewer victims, or using tactics that put them at more risk of being reported and punished. Either is a move in the right direction.

Lisak’s work also provides messages not just for women to identify when these tactics are directed at them, but also for bystanders, as he himself says:

Prevention efforts geared toward persuading men not to rape are very unlikely to be effective. Lessons can be drawn from many decades of experience in sex offender treatment, which have demonstrated that it is extremely difficult to change the behavior of a serial predator even when you incarcerate him and subject him to an intensive, multi-year program. Rather than focusing prevention efforts on the rapists, it would seem far more effective to focus those efforts on the far more numerous bystanders – men and women who are part of the social and cultural milieu in which rapes are spawned and who can be mobilized to identify perpetrators and intervene in high-risk situations.

[Emphasis mine.]

In other words, look for the tactics and interrupt the routine. Spot the rapist deliberately getting the woman drunk or angling to get the drunk woman alone in an unfamiliar place, and intervene. A guy offering a drunk woman a ride home may just be offering a ride, but if he is insistent when someone else offers a ride, this ought to raise a flag.

In the last post on Lisak’s work I said that men need to listen, and to change the culture to take away the rapists’ social license to operate. I wrote there about the language of supportive attitudes that tell the rapist he will be coddled and trusted and his victim will be rejected, interrogated and disbelieved. But there’s more, and more concrete, work to be done. Bystanders can look for the pattern and interfere with the pattern. If a guy is antagonistic towards women and places a lot of emphasis on sex as scoring or conquest, and he’s violating a woman’s boundaries and trying to end up with her drunk and alone, we don’t have to be sure what he’s doing to be concerned, and to start trying to give her exit ramps from his predatory slide.

Get in the middle, get in the way, and block the stalk. It’s concrete and it’s doable. It doesn’t take a hero. It takes a human.

As usual on this blog, rape-supportive commenters will last about as long as a snowball in hell.

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79 Comments leave one →
  1. DavidC permalink
    November 24, 2009 6:27 pm

    I think you mean ‘former,’ not ‘latter.’ Or mean to switch ‘incarcerated’ and ‘non-incarcerated.’
    (Feel free to delete this comment, which will just be wasting space after the fix. I just didn’t know another way to let you know.)

  2. cmb permalink
    November 24, 2009 7:33 pm

    i’d really like to know a bit more about that article. for instance what does “testing prospective victims’ boundaries” mean? what kind of tactics do they use to isolate their victims? maybe if we get a sense of what that looks like from across a room or what it feels like from across a table it will be as easy for us to identify proespective rapists as it is for them to identify proespective victims.

    • osoborracho permalink
      November 25, 2009 5:39 am

      I think I was targeted by a guy who passed me over and later raped a different girl in my circle of friends… I’ll describe what he did.

      Bit of background: I was 18 at the time and this guy who was nearly a decade older had been hanging out with my friends, who were still in high school. S was very smooth, club fashionable, and listened to cool music so the boys idolized him. I figured he was probably a loser to be hanging out with us, but he was fun to be around and we became friends. In retrospect, he was probably just trying to meet teenage girls to fuck/rape.

      We chatted online and I met him alone at a coffee house a couple times to just hang out. One time he insisted we go to his car to listen to an album on the stereo. He didn’t try anything funny, but it was a busy area. He then invited me (and none of my friends) to a large party hosted by one of his 30-something friends. I wasn’t legally of age to drink but was offered alcohol anyway. Luckily I had learned to drink with family and knew how to mix my own cocktails and avoid getting drunk. Had a great time chatting with new people while S disappeared for a bit with an acquaintance. By the end of the night, he was sloshed. He wanted a goodbye hug so I gave him one, and then he kissed my temple. I gave him a peck on the cheek, he responded with a longer kiss closer to my ear. After that I said, “Seeya!” and drove myself home.

      A few months later, S raped an underage classmate of my friends. He and my friends planned ahead of time to invite her over and get her drunk so S could fuck her. They selected this girl because she had a reputation for being a free spirit. How do I know this?- one of my accomplice-to-rape friends told me! He didn’t even think what they did was rape, because the girl was a “slut.” Sadly, I was a stupid dipshit who didn’t believe it was rape either at the time and didn’t save the chat logs as evidence. The only person that believed the poor girl’s side of events was her boyfriend at the time (the ex-boyfriend who abused me, ironically).

      I still feel guilty that I could have helped her but was too stupid at the time. I’m sort of debating contacting her, it’s been over 5 years though and she was an acquaintance. Thoughts, anyone?

      • Wendell permalink
        November 25, 2009 6:21 pm

        I think bumerry made sense with the comment below. I wanted to ask/tell you to not call yourself–or a past ‘self’–stupid. Learning the hard way is shitty, but you learned. That is not at all stupid.

      • Alex permalink
        April 9, 2010 9:32 pm

        I think it’s good that you now realize what happened, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up since you were not an accomplice to rape. However, I think you should contact her, because whether or not you knew her well or how long ago it was, this young woman was subjected to rape and then disbelieved. To hear an apology and an acknowledgement would probably mean the world to her. 🙂

      • Kaija permalink
        April 27, 2010 5:50 pm

        osoborracho, your story gives me the chills because the nearly exact same thing happened to me…older guy who hung out with the high school kids, girls sort of knew he was a creeper, he made an unsuccessful pass at me at a party that repulsed me, but I didn’t know any better than to blame myself for having “inadvertently invited the attention” but I did make sure to watch out for my friends and keep them away from him. Many of the girls in my high school knew this guy was bad news and warned each other but when we tried to express this to adults, we were silenced/not believed/told we should not be drinking (like that was the real problem). When I was in my last year of undergrad, I heard that he was arrested for statutory rape of a very young girl. By then I had gained some political and feminist awareness and wished I would have done something more at the time. I remained an active bystander since that instance and always watched out for my friends and was alert to predators. What I learned from that first incident is that my instincts are trustworthy; the predator theory rings too true for far too many women.

    • November 27, 2009 9:37 pm

      When I was younger I had a really hard time being assertive – it’s still hard for me now – and one “testing” method guys used was to be inappropriately physically close to me and see what I’d do. They’d behave in a way that was a bit too intimate (considering that they were always just acquaintances), like sitting too close, casually putting an arm around me while talking to me, etc. And I was always uncomfortable with it but didn’t want to be confrontational (you know the guy would’ve protested that he was “just being friendly” anyway…). Perhaps this “testing” wasn’t designed to lead to rape – perhaps it just amused these guys to intimidate me – but I believe the behaviour stems from the same headspace.

      So if you see some guy up in a woman’s face/leaning on her/slinging an arm around her, and everything about the woman’s body language broadcasts “I DON’T WANT THIS” (she’s leaning away from him, she’s twisting her face away, she’s stepping backward but he stepping forward to compensate, she’s holding very still as though trying to ignore the fact that ‘s touching her) – bail her out!!!

      Postscript: I’m happy to report that the last time I was at a club and some random dude put his arm around my shoulders and started making small talk way too close to my face, I said “GO AWAY AND STOP TOUCHING ME”. And he did. 🙂

  3. Anon permalink
    November 24, 2009 8:59 pm

    Yes, it only takes a human and is entirely doable. I live in the city centre, a lot of dodgy scenes take place under my window at night when the bars close. When I see a man try to grab a woman walking alone or follow her uninvited, I shout from the window and scare him off. Once at a party I overheard about a 25-year-old guy that always totally gave me the creeps repeatedly beg an underage girl to leave to another party with him. Finally she said she yes, but wanted to stay at this one a bit longer. I pulled the girl aside and told her frankly about my concern for her safety. She was very drunk and unafraid. I couldn’t stop her or tag along, but I went to the guy, looked him in the eye and said “I know your name, I know where you work, I know she left with you tonight”. A couple of days later I learned the guy had beaten his ex-girlfriend really badly and had been given a restraining order so my bad feeling had something to it.

    (The girl got a ride home from a good guy who also had suspicions about the pushy guy, the girl told me the next time I ran into her.)

    • Alex permalink
      April 9, 2010 12:37 am

      That’s really awesome and I’m glad you said that! I once witnessed a man in his forties on the city bus harassing these two girls who couldn’t have been more than fourteen. I told him to leave the girls alone. Well, he said we must all be on our periods, but he got off the bus and the girls thanked me. We can stop rape if we work together. 🙂

  4. catgirl permalink
    November 24, 2009 10:45 pm

    It’s really not surprising to find that rapists are more likely to be woman-haters. The problem is that it’s not always easy to tell which men hate women. It’s very often that the sweet “nice guy” holds a secret resentment towards women, because he can blame them when he gets rejected. There are some men who will befriend a woman, but never muster the courage to ask her out, then he’ll get frustrated at himself and get mad at the woman for not reading his mind and asking him out. I’ve met a few guys like this, and it’s really weird to reach that point when you find out how much they really resents women. Of course I’ve had plenty of male friends who weren’t secretly wanting to date me and were good people, and I’ll never be suspicious of a friend until I have a reason to be. I just think it’s important to remember that woman-haters aren’t always loud-mouth jerks about it.

  5. Krisi permalink
    November 25, 2009 12:08 pm

    I have recently come to the conclusion that my friend is a rapist. I have always excused the things that happened between us, blamed myself partially, etc. This is up to and including a few years ago when I finally looked at him and said “The answer is no. Always no, sober or inebriated, NO. If you touch me, follow me home from a bar again, or anything of this sort, I will slap you with sexual assault charges.”

    Over this past summer, he started talking to me about his “love life”. I am horrified to realize that he methodically does the same thing to countless women that he has done to me several times over the decade I have known him. He is always the guy who is there when a woman is drinking, he calls late at night because he is “lonely”, he gets women physically isolated. Alcohol is his main modus operandi, followed by sheer size and manipulation. One of the women he told me about actually said she did not want to sleep with him, and he had sex with her anyway after she was inebriated. HE TOLD ME THIS HIMSELF.

    Anytime I have tried to have a low key conversation with him about these things and how they are detrimental, and I have really tried to keep in non confrontational (What I want to say is “Stop raping women, you self serving asshole) it turns into extreme personal attacks on myself.

    I have decided to remove him from my life, but because of mutual friends, I can’t just defriend him and stop answering his calls.

    Should I talk to him? I really am not certain what to do here, and I am not getting support from our mutual friends, non of whom are overly eager to remain his friend, but who also don’t want friction. One is even pushing me to talk to him because he offends my “Values”.


    • Shivkun permalink
      November 27, 2009 11:49 am

      As someone who has been in nearly the exact same situation, you need to get out of this right now. Your friends, though maybe well meaning, do not understand what is going on. Attempt to educate them if you can but if not, you need to say “He may be your friend but he cannot be mine anymore.”

      This type of rape is known as coercive rape because the rapist uses manipulation of someone they know and gets them into a situation where it is difficult to say no and where no one will know if they do not consent. It is much easier in this situation for the victim to blame themself as well or even consider it consensual.

      When I had to make a similar break, I gathered as many of my friends as did support me, confronted him and then we all in solidarity made a break with him. However, I would still get questions from them on whether he really raped me or if I was confused because coercive rape is much less straightforward than our society’s normal definition of rape. It was very tough. I had to go through some counseling before I could understand that my instinct was correct and I had been raped, it had just been in a way that was not society’s normal definition.

      Eventually, I had to state to all my friends that I did not like this person, did not wish to see him and did not wish to be invited anywhere he was invited or helped to “reconcile our differences”. It was very tough because though my friends didn’t love him by any means, they didn’t want to deal with the possible friction in our friend group. To this day, two of them still speak to him and hang out with him and it kills me sometimes to know that they know what happened and still spend time with him. This may happen with you as well and you must take steps to keep yourself safe.

      I recommend getting a restraining order. I wish I had for years after because I would see him around town (as we lived in a small town) and would be confronted by him or terrified of his presence and that it would all just start over again. Also, this puts something on his record if you’re not able to press formal charges or not ready. Its a red flag in case he gets caught with something later.

      Do not stick around in the misguided belief that you can somehow convince of his wrong. He obviously does not see a problem in what he does and if you put yourself in harm’s way in order to try to “save” him, you may end up in danger again.

      Warn your female mutual friends about him and warn them against the dangers of being alone with him at night with alcohol. They might get angry or defensive of him but it is much better that they know the risks and dangers and you never have to know the pain of realizing if you had just told someone, there would have been one less victim.

      He’s not going to take the confrontation well. He will say a lot of manipulative things most likely and possibly talk to your mutual friends behind your back. In short, this is gonna suck. But it will be worth it in the end because you will be safe and hopefully, your female friends will be safe.

      If you decide to confront him directly, take backup. Do not be alone during this confrontation. You don’t want to risk your safety and it will be a boost to your confidence.

      If your friends decide to stay friends with him, its gonna suck as well. Its gonna feel like a betrayal most likely. Be very honest about how you feel in the beginning and see what they say. If they still decide to spend time with him, you may need to distance yourself slightly or just make that a not talked about part of your friendship.

      I’m sorry that this has happened. I hope what I’ve said has helped. Please let me know how it goes. Keep yourself safe.

    • Pockysmama permalink
      December 8, 2009 4:30 pm

      You absolutely can defriend him and stop taking his calls. You are under no obligation to remain his friend. This isn’t about making him or your other friends happy, this is about your safety, which you perceive may be at risk. Women are often conditioned to be nice, non-confrontational, to “ignore” your wildly screaming gut intuition. Stop ignoring your intuition. You are not wrong.

    • Miss permalink
      January 19, 2014 11:59 pm

      I think you should go to the police. Your ex-friend has admitted rape. You should report it. Report it all. Your conversations with him, everything. That way, if someone he rapes goes to the police, and they already have a complaint against him, they might take it more seriously.

  6. bumerry permalink
    November 25, 2009 3:53 pm

    Ossoborracho, I think that it might be a very hope inspiring and healing thing for you to write her a brief note owning that you were wrong not to support her, and an apology explicitly stating that you have learned better and will change your behavior. As long as you don’t expect a cookie in return – I know you don’t, but saying that she has no obligation to respond signals respect for her – it’s a great idea. Walking on egg shells rarely helps survivors of any kind – you’re not reminding them of something they’ve conveniently forgotten, trauma stays with people. Absent drugging or head trauma, adults virtually never lose memories of abuse. Pointing her to Lisak’s evidence that she is not alone and she got the bad social rap her rapist actually deserved could also be positive.

    Krisi – that’s the key question, thanks for clarifying the problem so well. I’m earning my master’s in social work, and this could be a great thesis. I think the Yes Means Yes movement with the corollary men can stop rape ideology could develop an deliver interventions. Men are affected by rape of women they love, and any number of men have been sexually assaulted as kids and deeply understand. Showing what Usually Happens fights cognitive dissonance, because unlike Ossobarrocho most people don’t want to admit wrongdoing if there’s plausible deniability. I think interventions with men are extremely important because undetected rapists may be more likely to show the pattern around their male friends. The good guys far outnumber the bad guys, and can circumvent rapists and provide testimony.

    I think getting together legal, medical, social work, law enforcement, educational and other professionals to form a holistic rape prevention strategy based on this evidence would be a good public health effort. Rapists are unlikely to stop raping, but we can help social circles to prevent rape when possible and support survivors.

  7. November 27, 2009 4:45 pm

    Someone upthread asked about the details of how one might go about testing a woman’s boundaries, so I thought I’d recommend Gavin deBecker’s “The Gift of Fear” to those who want to know more. The first time I read it, I remember tearing up over a passage in which he describes a the scenario of a party: a man asks a woman if he could get her a beverage, she declines, he insists and she relents – she’s been taught to be nice, not to make a scene. It’s shockingly common, this tendency to assent when pushed – and I know I’ve done it plenty of times. Just be nice, says a voice in my head.

    That guy? Learned that she can be talked out of saying no.

    • November 27, 2009 11:52 pm

      Oooh. Next time a guy is being persistent like that (about ANYTHING) and I sense that it’s a sleazy test, I’ll sweetly say “Do you *always* ignore it when a woman says no?”

      I have a feeling this will hit the nail on the head so directly that he backs off me completely to look for other prey.

      • Rikibeth permalink
        March 6, 2010 8:58 am

        Oooh, now THAT is a really good comeback, and I plan to use it too!

    • Kaija permalink
      April 27, 2010 6:03 pm

      I agree completely…women are socially conditioned to be nice and not make scenes and tolerate advances/interactions that they do not welcome. Any excellent piece on that is here:

      Quote from the link:

      “If women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:

      * it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (“mean bitch”)

      * it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (“crazy bitch”)… See More

      * it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (“stuck-up bitch”)

      * it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (“angry bitch”)

      * it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (“bitch got daddy issues”)

      * it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (“dyke bitch”)

      * it is not okay to raise your voice (“shrill bitch”)

      * it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (“mean dyke/frigid bitch”)

      If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.

      And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes.”

  8. November 29, 2009 8:45 pm

    That’s good advice about watching for predators testing the waters by testing boundaries. It’s not just rapists, it’s criminals in general that do this. Testing starts with violating boundaries – will the potential victim let the tester get too close? How will they react? Will they let the criminal invade their space? The criminal wants to know he can take advantage of “good manners.” People, especially women, are trained from early on to “be nice” and there are predators that will use that to select victims. The predator will also do things like try to get you in their debt (“can I get you a drink”), act inappropriately close to you, try to confuse you, refuse to hear “NO.” Once you are established as a “soft target” the predator will try to isolate you and proceed with whatever the crime is. This might be a stranger wanting to rob you and this might be an acquaintance wanting to rape you. Recognize and fight against them – pay attention, don’t be afraid to “be a bitch,” say NO early, loud and often, party on the ‘buddy system,’ pay attention to where your friends are, women make sure everyone has a safe, not sketchy, ride home, etc.

  9. November 30, 2009 10:09 am

    Fantastic post, I did not thought reading this was going to be so awesome when I klicked at the url!

  10. Rebecca permalink
    December 2, 2009 8:25 pm

    Thank you.

  11. anonymousresearcher permalink
    December 7, 2009 2:30 pm

    People lie in surveys, or are simply too lazy to take it seriously. I’m not sure whether the numbers they report are more likely to be an overcount or an undercount. But in general, questions with a low overall share of people saying “yes” are more likely to result in overcounts because only a small percentage needs to lie to mess it up.

    Even if you are trying to be honest some questions are just hard to answer due to memory issues. “How many times have you ever ______? is really hard when the answer is more than a few.

    Questions I really wish were asked:
    How do you think the victim felt about the rape?
    Had you previously had consensual sex with the victim?
    Did you subsequently have consensual sex with the victim?

    My guess is that a non-trivial chunk of rapes are happening in relationships. I get the sense that some women could leave violent relationships, but they don’t want to for various reasons. In fact, I think some women only find themselves attracted to men who have a violent streak. Obviously this does not justify violence, but it does mean that violence is more complicated and harder to eliminate than it would otherwise be.

    I think the “listen to rape victims” and “challenge unethical behavior, including rape, by friends” is good advice, but I think it may be oversold. Aren’t we doing that already?

    In the second post the writer quotes the researcher:
    “Lisak describes the characteristics of their methodology: …”
    While I’m sure those chararcteristics fit some people, I think that many of the rapists discovered in the survey would not be described that way. In particular, a lot of rape is probably not premeditated.

    In the second post the writer also claims that rapists in prison, and the rapists identified by the survey, are basically very similar except the ones in prison are a little less clever about how they do it. I’m skeptical. I think other differences between the two groups, including but not limited to, the type of rape, are probably important.

    “It might help some survivors of these kinds of rapes to know that they were not stupid and they didn’t make a mistake; that they were in overwhelming probability targeted and harmed deliberately by someone who has planned and maybe practiced a routine of testing, intoxication and isolation. Survivors shouldn’t feel like suckers.”

    “…women are already doing everything they know how to keep from getting raped, short of giving up living their lives.”
    This has got to be false. Lots of people choose to do things that are dangerous and I see no reason to think that some women aren’t taking unnecessary risks… this by no means justifies their rape, which is still a horrible crime.

    • December 7, 2009 2:54 pm

      “People lie in surveys, or are simply too lazy to take it seriously. ”

      There’s a discussion of self-report research in Lisak’s survey, as there almost always is. This is an issue that methodologies address. Also, McWhorter largely duplicated Lisak’s findings with a different population in different years, suggesting reliability.

      “My guess is that a non-trivial chunk of rapes are happening in relationships. I get the sense that some women could leave violent relationships, but they don’t want to for various reasons. In fact, I think some women only find themselves attracted to men who have a violent streak. ”

      I don’t know where you get your “sense.” I don’t know what you mean by “could” leave, or if you’re aware that victims of violent relationships try to leave an average of seven times, or that they are most likely to be killed when they do leave. Your last sentence sounds like you’re cribbing Paglia, who is human feces. Do you have anything to back up your assertion that women prefer violent partners other than your “sense” and fiction? I’ve seen that in fictional works, too. But only in fiction.

      “I think the “listen to rape victims” and “challenge unethical behavior, including rape, by friends” is good advice, but I think it may be oversold. Aren’t we doing that already?”

      No. Read my No Chosen People post, of Jaclyn’s Rape Culture post, or … any feminist writing about rape. No, we are not doing that. Most of the Hollywood entertainment industry supported Roman Polanski, who drugged and raped a thirteen year old who said no. We are not challenging unethical behavior. We as a society are routinely looking for excuses, when the vast majority of rapes are committed by a few men who do it over and over again.

      “While I’m sure those characteristics fit some people, I think that many of the rapists discovered in the survey would not be described that way. In particular, a lot of rape is probably not premeditated.”

      See! There! You just did it! In Lisak’s survey, the overwhelming majority of the rapes — over 90% — were committed by men who themselves said that they had done it more than once, and averaged six a piece. And they committed a hugely disproportionate share of the other violent acts. Yet you’re making excuses. You’re saying that many of these were not premeditated. What in the data could possibly suggest this to you? They’re violent at higher rates than the population in multiple ways, they sexually penetrate women to intoxicated to resist, a tactic that is least likely to get them arrested and prosecuted, they do it over and over again … but you think it’s some sort of confluence of circumstances? You’re bending over backwards to make excused for this population of rapists.

      So … congratulations. You’re part of the problem. And you’re banned. I only let your comment through because I wanted my readership to see such a shining example of the “yes but” apologist.

      ““…women are already doing everything they know how to keep from getting raped, short of giving up living their lives.”
      This has got to be false. Lots of people choose to do things that are dangerous and I see no reason to think that some women aren’t taking unnecessary risks… this by no means justifies their rape, which is still a horrible crime.”

      As a parting shot, I’ll refer you to Jaclyn Friedman’s essay in YMY. Asking women to live cloistered lives, be teetotalers and never be alone with a man behind a closed door isn’t the way we ought to operate as a society. There are theocracies that have rules like that, but we don’t. If we’re saying that women can’t engage in socialization as it is normally understood within their demographics, then we’re asking them to give up their lives to avoid rape. They shouldn’t have to do that. When it comes right down to it, I’d rather kill the few million predators and let women live free than tell women to stay home alone and put bars on the windows.

    • gothchiq permalink
      December 8, 2009 3:09 pm

      No. This is all BS. You are making excuses for rape, soft-pedaling it, and looking for loopholes. No wonder you have chosen to be anonymous: You are a rape apologist. You excuse the attackers and blame the victims. You ARE the problem. Wake up and smell the rape kit.

    • January 27, 2010 10:27 pm

      You can still be raped with consent. Mine was a planned one. I really liked him alot and he didnt have to FORCE me to be with him. When he got me alone, he turned out the lights, took off me clothes and Forced it inside. He was huge, but i never saw his body at all. then he started PULLING on my sex parts. Yuck, i can still feel it. do not ever trust anyone that is bigger than you. liking him probably saved my life, because i sis not fight him back. if you mail me back, let me know before you do, so i can read it first.

      • Little Mouse (Not) permalink
        July 31, 2011 4:16 pm

        Reminds me of that case a few years back where a football star raped a 15yo cheerleader. She liked him and starting making out with him alone in a school classroom. He was like three times her size and pushed her down and stuck it in her. (Clockwork Orange style, baby.) The only recourse in that case was the statutory rape statute, with the usual cabal of parents screaming “How dare you!” when obviously SOMEBODY didn’t teach that boy that “I like you, let’s make out,” is not permission to rape. (To me, culpability lies not just on the heads of his parents, but upon all the teachers and boosters who hinted or flat out told him that anything was permissible for him as their champion. Of sports.)

        “Hey, let’s thumb wrestle,” doesn’t mean “Go ahead and stab me in the thigh with a kitchen knife.” Not sure why people get so confused about that.

  12. January 29, 2011 4:04 pm

    I agree, it doesn’t take a hero, just someone prepared to jump in. I was walking home one night from practice to find a guy harrasing a girl (walking really closely, grabbing at her). There was a crowd of people and no one did anything.

    So I stepped between him and her and occupied his attention until she was long gone. Still no one else did anything.

    Yes it’s a risk to get involved, but doing nothing is far worse.

  13. Amory permalink
    January 29, 2011 6:53 pm

    Thanks for this post. I appreciate it a lot, as it is another drop in the dispelling-victim-blaming-myths bucket. I have one concern. I hope the use of the phrase, “we cannot negotiate with terrorists” was bitterly tongue-in-cheek. Because this was not made clear by the tone of the piece, it was disturbing to me, as the word “terrorist” is quite obviously politically and racially charged. Many people who fight against various manifestations of rape culture are labeled “terrorists” by the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention and Animal Enterprise Terrorism Acts, among others. And as Talal Asad argues in his brilliant book “On Suicide Bombing”, the difference between the moral acceptability of dropping an atomic bomb on millions of civilians and a suicide bomber killing twelve civilians is moot. One is considered “legal” warfare and one is “illegal”, because one is state-sanctioned and one is not. That is the only difference between “war” and “terrorism”. Words such as “illegal” and “terrorist” are generally applied by people with hegemonic power to justify violence against people without it. Who defines international law? Who lacks representation? Whose “vote” counts for more with the UN, World Bank, etc.?
    When critiquing one form of hierarchical violence produced by a set of unequal power relations (rape), it’s problematic to deploy rhetoric which reinscribes another form of hierarchical violence. I’m not saying that TECHNICALLY it’s incorrect to call rapists “terrorists”; I’m saying that it’s ethically questionable from an intersectional, social justice or anti-oppressive standpoint, because the political context of such a word’s use is racialized. For example, compare mainstream discourse regarding the anthrax scare (mainstream media assumed it was “terrorists”; when it turned out to be a white man it was forgotten, because “terrorist” is racially coded language. Just as when white men like Timothy McVeigh (or more recently, Jared Lee Loughner) commit acts of violence it is looked at as individual pathology rather than “terrorism).
    I hope that as we strive to challenge rape culture we can look at essential characteristics/ dynamics of rape and avoid reinforcing or normalizing them. I highly recommend reading Andrea Smith’s “Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide” if you haven’t already, and Patricia Hill Collins’ essay “It’s all in the family: intersections of race, gender and nation” for more info on ways rape culture relates to white supremacy and capitalism.

  14. Nothidinganymore permalink
    April 22, 2011 1:53 pm

    When I was a young teen I had experienced this type of coercion twice. I did see it for sexual abuse, but I also lived in a pretty unsupportive and abusive environment. It was like my abuse was seen as a failure to protect myself. I get this sad distinct feeling that my family was actually jealous of my surviving a sexually abusive step parent, so they made these new experiences as a reason to be physically violent and attack me. My brother was encouraged to beat me after one experience, by my mother.

    And it wasn’t even so subtle. I felt confused about calling it rape. I felt shame in “giving in” to each guy, even though each incident used a considerable amount of coercion.

    In one incident the man was 30, and he had been following me for months (without my knowing it). He started trying to make contact with me. When I went to evade his contact, he followed me relentlessly, saying he only wanted to “help me” from my family. His claim of wanting to “help” turned into threats of how he always knew where to find me, as he spent much time watching my patterns, and that he was going to have me anyway, even if it took him raping me.

    I was punished physically at home for this. I was labelled the town “slut” by one girl at school. It was like because it did not fit some attacker behind the bushes theme, but an initially naive 15 yo being coerced by an older man, that I was attacked. I was more culpable in my abuse and that was really shameful. I think this man spent ages profiling me though. No one ever talked about that. I was just labelled a hooker, slut, whore.

    The second time was a group of friends. Sure I am at fault by letting them know personal details I shouldn’t have admitted to. But I still look back and think, “why didn’t anyone man up/woman up when they saw him grab me?”

    I was grabbed repeatedly. The response of his friends was to tell me to shut up, whenever I shouted no, or screamed. There was a point where I expressed discomfort loudly, and was cornered and pushed. The guy’s friend, did not come up and tell his friend to ease off me. There was no “man”ing up. He yelled at me to shut up, as his friend used his size and strength difference over mine, and pushed me towards a room.

    I was pushed down on the bed. I have a lot of shame, as I felt I partly went along at first. I did feel confusion as he kissed me because I felt coerced. I pulled away. I could not say no. I think I was bullied into the situation, physically.

    He did physically assault me when he brought his friends in the room. He used them as bullying tactic. He tried to force oral sex on me in front of them. I physically wouldn’t budge so he kicked at me.

    I tried to pretend nothing happened at first. I tried to crack a joke but felt a huge sense of guilt, and wondered if I could report it. I kept fearing how I would be made to look so I didn’t. I can’t say the woman who was there was helping too much. She did seem concerned at first then she quickly turned on me, claiming I only have long hair because I just want men 24/7.

    I did not know pre-hand that she was telling everyone my personal business, and asking guys to fuck me. I had no idea. I was told that by a friend who had been watching her go up to any guy, and any stranger, spilling out sexual info about me. It makes me wonder how much she actually factored into this event happening to me. I wonder if it is not “all my fault” and that my reactions afterwards may have been normal, and just confused. This girl said the guy’s girlfriend automatically blamed me anyway, and said, “I knew they would fool around.” I am questioning whether this is really true.

    When I went home right after this experience I was terribly distressed. The guys saw me and realized they did some damage, when I began crying and asking them to leave me alone. I told them I had a difficult enough time, and I am being threatened with foster care by my family.

    The guy who did the physical part seemed to go out of his way, along with the help of several people, at isolating me, and making sure his girlfriend didn’t get a close look at me. Hey some people can call this a lie, but I am sure she was made to leave my class because if she got a sense something bad happened to me, and that could potentially hurt her, I’m sure she wouldn’t have dated him.

    One other friend of his went around slagging me, just like the girl. The fucked up part is he witnessed him kicking me, and this made me such a whore to all his friends. He slagged me to every guy, especially when he saw me coming.

    My family beat the shit out of me right after this happened. My mother incited my brother do it by calling me a whore. Hey the neighbours noticed something wrong enough they rushed me to a police station. The police did nothing. Children’s Aid was contacted. They did nothing.

    Eventually Children’s Aid was called again, by a neighbour. CAS said it was my fault. A mental hospital was lined up but my mother said, “oh she’s fine.” I ended up homeless instead.

    I am wondering how no one thought anything was wrong, and why I was so heavily slagged, as if my experiences threatened some people’s perceptions of the world, or pointed out there own predilections.

    I asked my brother if he thought it was wrong that he hit me, and that his friend watched me be hit. He blamed our mother, and excused his friend as just being cool, and that I should respect him anyway.


    And I am told that we don’t live in a rape culture….

    • Stephanie permalink
      April 25, 2011 4:10 am

      Wow…I cant even imagine how confused and insecure I would have been getting all these twisted messages from so many people around me, on top of what had already happened. Great that you managed to see through this!

      I am still in a thought process on what happened in one of my former relationships, and its incredible how mixed my feelings are and how difficult it is to sort them out. But I guess its a matter of time:-)

      • Nothidinganymore permalink
        April 27, 2011 11:28 pm

        I think in all honesty, you spend your life finding a different peace. You feel good, then your history creeps up, you find yourself stuck in a rut you did so much to survive, and you feel outside the rut is sheer terror. Inside the rut is a terror your are used too. It’s sad, but I think that’s the reality that abuse causes. It entraps you. I think this is why women repeat abusive relationships. You are taught to feel threatened for speaking out, as that is asking for it. So you hide, and you live in some place. And we lose our identities, and push ourselves into small existences to hide the history.

        It took me a long time to call it rape. I knew it then it had words. I said those words; coercion, harassment, sexual abuse. But it’s like they don’t connect to the world. I was told I was never sexually abused once. Then what is this? I never thought I could use them. I thought I was horrible, but then again there was a constant message to keep quiet or face worse.

  15. Schala permalink
    April 26, 2011 9:43 pm

    “When compared to men who do not rape, these undetected rapists are measurably more angry at women, more motivated by the need to dominate and control women, more impulsive and disinhibited in their behavior, more hyper-masculine in their beliefs and attitudes, less empathic and more antisocial.”

    Ironic that I’ve read exactly this kind of behavior as *what women want* on a blog. Hooking up smart posits that women shit-test men for them to prove dominance, “backbone”, independance and “not taking shit” from their male partners (or else reject them as weak, unfit, and too nice to be sexually stimulating/exciting).

    I completely disagree with this notion, and find it extremely destructive…yet I’ll say it’s one heavily advertised to youth and older youth as THE way to be (or else you’re a loser). People who are marginalized can more easily opt out from this crap, having less at stake (you already get crap for nothing, what’s a little more heh?). I’m one of those. I’m marginalized for many things:

    -I’m too nice, sincere, honest and this is off-putting to many who consider that my having my guard off is a sign of high trust (at some point it is, initially it isn’t). Not people hitting on me, as much as people assuming I’m hitting on everyone.

    -I speak too much, of subjects probably too obscure, deep or with a large amount of mental thought. This puts off many who prefer light discussions about many topics. As opposed to a very deep analysis of a single topic. This is a symptom of Asperger syndrome – but I never got diagnosed (and diagnosis criteria, for everyone, are based on childhood elements, so they forget adults exist).

    – Prior to my transition, I was too feminine for a male-assigned person. In body language mainly. Lack of masculine interests (as opposed to feminine interests) didn’t help. My boyfriend doesn’t like sports, or cars (same as me), but he was masculine enough in body language to avoid ostracism, even with long hair in his youth and now.

  16. Schala permalink
    April 27, 2011 9:54 am

    I meant to add that being marginalized it was easier to opt out of this crap mind games.

    Those mind games seem predicated on notions that to be with someone (even in a LTR), you need to be constantly sexually aroused by them.

    If they do anything that makes you be less attracted sexually, they lose points. And that includes men showing “weakness”, like crying, apparently.

    To not “show weakness”, they’ll be told to approach the rapist profile you named above:

    -More angry at women, more dominating of women, more impulsive, less inhibited in behavior, more hyper-masculine in beliefs and attitudes, less empathic and more anti-social.

    Since that’s what experience tells them attracts women – and it’s the attitude needed to “pass” most shit-tests. You’re too kind, empathic or not dominant enough? You can get dumped for it, instead of in spite of it.

    So media culture that glorifies “alpha traits” (those I named above) and being an asshole certainly doesn’t help. Young women’s preferences is aligned with it, too. I hope it’s a minority, and that most people don’t entirely depend on arousal to have relationships. It seems to change with age…but some don’t ever.

    It’s this kind of thing that creates memes like “dating a bad boy, then attempting to turn/train him to be a good boy…and then dumping him because he’s not exciting anymore”.

    It’s ironic that the attitude of a man who uses women for sex, doesn’t care about their feelings, and doesn’t cater to their needs – is seen as high value, because it’s much harder to make him commit.

    In my book, he’s simply an asshole. And not because he doesn’t commit.

    Then they say he needs some “beta” traits to make the relationship last…but he needs enough “alpha” traits to keep her excited still. “Alpha” is what draws her. “Beta” is what makes you different from a psychopath. But forget crying or sharing feelings. Unless you do once in a blue moon.

    Who needs such an adversarial dating stance?

    By the way, nice guys get screwed because they 1) don’t want to play those kind of stupid cruel games 2) are usually indoctrinated into pedestalizing women (by society, their peers, media – for example “Never hit a girl” is a meme that discriminates, making girls seem fragile/worth protecting, and boys seem fair game for being hit/hurt/beaten) – which is the opposite of “alpha” and apparently, looks way too needy/desperate to be attractive at all. So those nice guys have to wait until some people stop playing that game – but then, after 10+ years of involuntary celibacy, might have reason to feel bitter.

    • October 2, 2011 3:44 am

      Um. A “nice guy” who thinks being nice entitles him to be bitter if he can’t find a woman who wants to have sex with him, is not a nice guy. He is, at best, a self-pitying bore.

  17. Rose Orozco permalink
    August 10, 2011 10:04 pm

    Look for tactics and interupt the rutine! I think this is brilliant!
    But how can one do it in a close enviroment with out the rapist noticing? I wish I could talk to someone abou this. ( :
    I’m so free spirit that I usually don’t get it when a scene begins untill the end, or after the end, in retrospect. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to interupt.

    • January 11, 2012 12:16 am

      I think part of it is that the rapist *does* need to notice. He needs to know that people don’t approve of his behaviour. It’s not just about stopping one rape, but about reducing the tacit acceptance of rape culture.

  18. Ruva permalink
    September 30, 2011 1:55 pm

    As a 13 year old kid with undiagnosed Asperger’s I was raped that way and treated terribly at school partly because of it. I am one reason why society needs to change attitudes about this type of rape, rather than the idea of women needing to change to “prevent rape”.Anyone agree?

  19. Dobby permalink
    August 13, 2012 10:13 pm

    You forgot to mention that most rapes are done by someone the victim knows so the “stranger in the elevator” rapist scenario is actually extremely unlikely, much less likely than “boyfriend in the hotel room” scenario. Would you feel the need to step in if you saw a couple heading into a hotel elevator because of the increased likelihood the girl would get raped?

    • March 18, 2013 12:46 pm

      Boy, some people really hate Rebecca Watson, don’t they? Still.

  20. meredithgrace permalink
    February 10, 2013 12:26 am

    Coming to this fairly late, I know, but I really appreciate this blog and the insight you bring to it.

    One of the things I’m interested in is a predator’s boundary testing. To me, this is maybe the only useful thing to tell women to watch out for (NOT teetotaling, carrying keys/mace, using a buddy system, whatever, blah blah blah). Know your boundaries, and expect them to be respected. And when someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, make a fuss. Granted, we are socialized to expect our boundaries to be violated – if we speak up about unwanted sexual advances or comments, we are called cold, prude, or bitches. But it’s important anyway. And not just to “prevent rape.” It’s about self-respect, and demanding that respect from others.

    What would you say are some good examples of boundary-violating that typically go unnoticed? The street harassment type is an obvious one, along with the unwanted advances in Kate Harding’s “Schrodinger’s Rapist” post. Anything else?


    • Nathanael permalink
      August 14, 2013 2:52 pm

      Boundary-violating that puts you in a more dangerous position is a dead giveaway.

      Like the person who keeps repeatedly trying to get someone else to drink more alcohol or take more of some other drug. Anyone who is even slightly pushy about getting someone *intoxicated* is likely to have the attitudes of an attacker. (I’ll make exceptions for professional bartenders who are being paid to push drinks on people, and similar.)

      And this often goes unnoticed, for what it’s worth. Offering people drinks, repeatedly — “You’re *sure* you don’t want a drink?” — raises my suspicions, but not, as far as I can tell, most people’s.

      Some types of boundary violations might be miscues, but boundary violations which are trying to push into a position where you will be less able to identify or deal with risks are *extremely* suspicious.

      Another point: anyone who makes “jokes” about ignoring your stated desires or intents and simply coercing you is a dangerous person. This is in contrast to people who merely yell in anger; they may actually be less dangerous. At least it makes sense for anger at you to be associated with ignoing your rights. By contrast, people who think committing kidnapping, assault, etc. is *funny* are being coolly sociopathic and need to be treated with great suspicion.

  21. Candy Madigan permalink
    August 14, 2013 5:57 am

    Nice article, but there’s no *information*. I kept waiting for a list or description of predatory behaviors and ways to block them, but the only solid example was the guy who offers a ride and then is insistent about it. Which is nice to know, but is only one indicator.

  22. beauxlieux permalink
    November 28, 2013 9:12 am

    Your link to Lisak’s article is now dead, but the article, “Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Assault,” was published in the Sexual Assault Report in 2011 and is available on Lisak’s website at:


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