Empowering College Women to Resist Rape

Summary and Comment |
July 1, 2015

Empowering College Women to Resist Rape

  1. Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP

A formalized program reduced the incidence of attempted and completed rape of first-year university students.

  1. Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP

Incidence of sexual assault on female university students is about 20% to 25% during 4 years of attendance (with highest rates during the first 2 years). Researchers assessed the efficacy of a four-session program to reduce attempted and completed acts of sexual assault. The program, conducted at three Canadian universities, included instruction in how to assess sexual assault risk with male acquaintances, to respond to unwanted sexual behaviors, and to practice resistance techniques.

Some 900 first-year female students (age range, 17–24; primarily white) were randomized to the resistance program (intervention group) or usual access to rape-prevention brochures (control group); 420 in the intervention group and 430 in the control group completed the 12-month follow-up. At baseline, more than half reported histories of attempted sexual coercion and about one quarter had experienced attempted or completed rape. At 1 year, risk for completed rape was significantly lower in the resistance group than the control group (5.2% vs. 9.8%; relative risk reduction, 46.3%; 1 rape prevented for every 22 program participants). Benefit occurred early and persisted throughout the year. Rape attempts were also less likely in the resistance group (3.4% vs. 9.3%; RR reduction, 63.2%). Women with histories of completed rape were much more likely to report completed rape during the study period than those with no such histories (22.8% vs. 5.8%).


As one of few studies to document a sustained effect of a rape-intervention program, this trial makes a valuable contribution. However, as an editorialist observes, the onus of sexual violence prevention on college campuses cannot rest entirely with potential victims; we need interventions directed at men to prevent coercive behaviors and actions. Given the high prevalence of sexual coercion history in this study, we also must target prevention to a younger age group.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP at time of publication Equity Stryker Corporation


Reader Comments (3)

John Cooper MD Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, outpatient

My daughters are trained in the use of pepper spray and they also know how to use firearms. Rapists whether on campus or on the streets are potential murderers. Harsh, highly publicized punishment has to be handed out to these creeps. Resistance? It's time for a major offensive.

LARRY ENINGER Physician, Ophthalmology, Office

Dr. Turkovsky clearly doesn't understand or wishes to distract from the concept here. Simply pointing the finger elsewhere completely disenables the victim. I suggest she read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, concentrating on the 1st habit.

Lauri Turkovsky, EdD Other, Unspecified

The term "rape resistance" blames the victim. Resistance skills are what you use to stop yourself from eating the second piece of cake at a wedding not what you have to do to fight of a sexual assault. Would we talk about "murder resistance," "mugging resistance," or "lynching resistance?" It makes the crime sound as though it is the fault of the victim and that it is her responsibility to prevent it. Why not call it “rape defense skills” or something that lays the blame solidly at the feet of the perpetrator? Shame on the field for adopting this term.

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