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Research on the Relationship between Rape and Dressing

In case you missed it, my last article on this blog was on rape, is the woman ever to blame? You can read the article here . I have received a lot of feedback on that piece some of which I must confess, I find downright hilarious. But an Igbo proverb says “it is not only a cadaver that can have its neck strengthened”. I have therefore decided to do a mini content analysis on research that has been carried out on the relationship between rape and a woman’s dressing. This, I have gathered, is an issue so knotty that someone posited that any article that puts rape and dressing in the same sentence should be left in the drafts.

This is going to be a long read so buckle up and promise not to puke (I joke)

Before I share my findings on this issue, let me clarify two other points. There is a school of thought that by categorizing rapists, I am in some way saying that one group can be justified. According to this group, all rapists and rapists and should not be categorized. Let me say at this point that categorizing rapists did not start with me. In fact, according to this Wikipedia entry here, there are types of rape:
Rape can be categorized in different ways: for example, by reference to the situation in which it occurs, by the identity or characteristics of the victim, and by the identity or characteristics of the perpetrator. These categories are referred to as types of rape.

Another research work says
The four motivations for rape are sexual gratification, anger rape, power rape, and sadistic rape. Sexual gratification is generally believed to be the motivation behind acquaintance and date rape. Anger rape is generally not premeditated, but it is violent and spurred by anger and resentment toward women. Power rape is spurred by the need to control and dominate. Sadistic rape is usually premeditated and ritualized, frequently subjecting victims to degradation, mutilation, torture, or murder. (Rathus, S.A., Nevid, J.S., and Fichner-Rathus, L. (2005). Human sexuality in a world of diversity.(6th ed.) Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon cited in )

Wikipedia notes here that rape by strangers is usually less common than rape by persons the victim knows. This type of rape is referred to as “Date Rape”. The term “date rape” is used to refer to several types of rape, broadly acquaintance rape, which is a non-domestic rape committed by someone who knows the victim, and drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA), where the rapist intentionally drugs the victim with a date rape drug so that they are incapacitated. Acquaintance rape constitutes the vast majority of reported rapes, while DFSA is infrequent.

Will we then say that by categorizing rape, sociologists are supporting any type of rape?

The second issue is more of a grammatical clarification. Does saying that a woman can be raped because of what she is wearing or her demeanor mean that she should be raped? The word “can” is used to denote possibility while “should” can denote desirability and expect-ability among other uses. I shall answer both questions again for clarity: can a woman be raped based on her dressing and demeanor? In other words: Is there a possibility that a woman’s dressing or demeanor could lead to her being raped? The answer to this question is yes. But then again I ask: Should a woman be raped because of her dressing and demeanor? In other words: Is it desirable that a woman be raped because of her dressing and demeanor? The answer to this question is NO. There is no justification for rape. No matter what a woman wears or does or does not do when she says NO it means NO, not maybe, not try harder. It means STOP. The second question put the responsibility of raping on the rapist. The first puts the responsibility of knowledge on every woman.

But really, can what a woman wear lead to rape or is this just a myth? Let me share the conclusions of some research I found. I will be including links so that if you choose you may read the entire research.

Let me start by pointing out that most of the research I found can be categorized (I’m sorry but the word is here again) in two: rape by strangers, which in my article I referred to as sociopathic rape and date rape which I called opportunistic rape.

This is what Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Andrea Parrot’s contributes to this issue from her book, “Coping with Date Rape and Acquaintance Rape”-
Unlike stranger rape, most acquaintance rape is not premeditated for the purpose of doing violence to a woman and degrading her…Acquaintance rape is premeditated or planned sex and ends as aggression only if the victim does not comply with the rapist’s demands.

Her views are supported by this study
The majority of the sexual attacks (55-61%) committed by these men were premeditated across their first, middle, and last rapes, while fewer rapists reported their crimes as being impulsive (15-22%) or opportunistic (22-24%).

This study by Theresa Meiner, focuses on the topic: Sexy Dressing Revisited: Does Target Dress Play a Part in Sexual Harassment Cases? You can find the entire study here Her conclusion:

When I began research for this article, I expected to find many cases involving allegations that the plaintiff “welcomed” the sexual harassment by her workplace attire. I was surprised to find that this was a rare case. Defendants were not using the woman’s dress to weasel out of claims, but instead, the woman’s dress most commonly was present in allegations by plaintiffs. Plaintiffs frequently raised comments about their dress as part of their sexual harassment allegations. This would seem to open the door to defendants, who might use evidence of target dress to argue that the plaintiff welcomed the harassment. Yet, that was not the case. I have tried to account for the lack of case law and, in the process, have gone back to the root cause of sexual harassment: power. Sexual harassment is about power; therefore, a target who is dressed provocatively is not the ideal target for the would-be harasser, who appears motivated at least in part by his ability to dominate his victim. A provocative dress does not necessarily signify submissiveness but instead may be an indication of confidence and assertiveness. It is clear, however, that comments about dress directed at plaintiffs are a component of sexual harassment allegations. Comments about dress are used to undermine working women’s authority and should be considered seriously by courts assessing sexual harassment claims.

From this study, we may be moved to conclude that the more provocatively dressed a woman is dressed the less likely she is to be harassed. This finding seems to agree with this feed shared by @Cherox in which I was copied Most of the women in this interview were definitely not provocatively dressed.

Does this, however, provide conclusive evidence that dressing plays no role in rape cases? No, in fact, sociopathic rapists profile their victims through their demeanor such that women who appear to lack confidence or are looking more vulnerable are often targeted.

The SlutWalk protest marches began on April 3, 2011, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with subsequent rallies occurring globally. Participants protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance and call for an end to rape culture.
Slutwalks are organized (where some of the women dress like sluts) to show it is wrong to rape a woman because of how she dresses.
Do you still remember the difference between ‘can’ and “should’? (Sorry, just checking)

In January 2013, NOI polls published the following findings:

Furthermore, in view of the debate that often arises about the cause(s) of rape in the society respondents were asked the following: What do you think is the prevalent cause of rape in the society? From the result, the majority of respondents (34%) were of the opinion that most prevalent cause of rape in the society is “Indecent dressing”; followed by 18% of respondents that cited “Unemployment”. Also, “Lack of moral values” and the “Inability to control sexual urge” were each cited by 9% of the respondents as the prevalent cause of rape. Other reasons mentioned by respondents include “Faulty upbringing” (7%), “Ungodliness”, “Illiteracy about women rights” and “Bad Company” (all with 5%).

A corroborative study by Amnesty International states:
34% believe women who flirt can be blamed if they are raped and 26% say if a woman is in sexy clothing she is partly to blame. WOMEN who flirt, get drunk or wear sexy clothes are asking to be raped. More than a third of people – mainly males – believe girls trying to chat up men are partially or totally responsible for being attacked. A quarter reckons a woman wearing a provocative outfit is at least partly to blame – especially if she has been drinking. One in 12 thinks she is a natural target if she has had a number of sexual partners. And a third believe she is responsible to some degree if she has clearly failed to say No?

What should the finding that the majority of respondents (34%) were of the opinion that most prevalent cause of rape in the society is “Indecent dressing” mean to advocates?

Amnesty International’s Kate Allen said: “The poll shows a shocking proportion of the public blame women for being raped. The Government must launch a new drive to counteract this sexist culture.”
Ms. Allen added: “The poll highlights the public ignorance of the problem as well as the dreadfully low conviction rates. Joanna Perry, policy manager at Victim Support, said: “It is alarming to read that so many people seem to believe that a woman is responsible for inviting a rape or sexual assault because of what she was wearing, what she drank or how she behaved.

Shocking. Yes. But this is the reality.

What then is wrong with giving women realistic preventive advice?

Wikihow has this answer
Many people feel that giving women guidelines about things that can be done to stay safe actually shames them and makes them feel like avoiding rape is all about having women act “the right way,” and that if they make a misstep, it is basically their fault that they got raped. This is not wikiHow’s intention(neither is it mine). We intend to empower women by giving them some sensible advice on how to avoid danger.

You can read Wikihows ways to prevent rape here

You may also like to note some of the information presented in this piece on profiling a rapist I share excerpts:
Sex offenders comprise an extremely heterogeneous population.
• There is no typical profile of a rapist, but they share some common characteristics.
• Sex offenders are overwhelmingly male, typically have access to consensual sex, and were not sexually or physically abused as children.
• Men are more likely to commit sexual violence in communities where sexual violence goes unpunished.
• Sex offenders are experts in rationalizing their behavior.
• Cross-cultural studies of rape identify the following factors as contributors to sexual violence: sex-role socialization, rape myths, lack of sanctions for abuse, male peer group support, pornography, adversarial sexual beliefs, lack of empathy, and all-male membership groups such as fraternities and sports teams.
• Alcohol abuse has been identified as a strong correlate of college rape.
• In a study on male sexual coercion, 23% of college men admitted to getting a date drunk or stoned to engage in sexual intercourse.
• Alcohol can be a disinhibitor and increase sexual impulsivity, as well as lower women’s detection of risk and impair their ability to resist assault.
• Intercourse cannot be consensual when the woman is incapacitated due to intoxication.

After presenting a date rape scenario, this website has this to say
Be Aware of Non-verbal Cues. Know that if you dress sexy and flirt, some men may think you want to have sex. This doesn’t mean your dress or actions are wrong but know that they may create misunderstanding.

This is the content of one school’s curriculum
Women, both young and old, generally believe that they could fight off a rapist. Unfortunately, few women give much thought to how they would do this other than believing they could stop him by kicking him in the genitals. Indeed, this may be guide unrealistic since males are taught at a young age to protect their genitals and doing so becomes almost instinctual. Women tend to be shorter and physically less strong than males and forcefully striking a man in the groin with a knee or foot is not always possible. What then is a woman to do?
The first step in preventing any crime is to avoid placing oneself in a vulnerable position. Women should avoid walking alone at night, keep car doors locked, check the back seat of the car when getting in, and if giving directions to someone, maintain a distance between oneself and the stranger’s car. Hitchhiking and admitting strangers to one’s home should be avoided always. If a repairman is expected, it is a good idea to have more than one person at home.
There are available in many communities self-defense classes, rape prevention courses, and brochures provided by police, insurance companies, and rape crisis centers which intend to help women avoid rape. These often consist of lists of prevention techniques some of which we have mentioned above. However, it is impossible to describe a common rape. Each rapist operates in an individual way, and women need to be aware of a variety of techniques to help themselves in a rape situation. There is no one answer to assure safety. Suppose a woman, in spite of taking care not to place herself in a vulnerable position, finds herself face to face with a man threatening rape. What alternatives does she have?
One possibility is to talk her way out of the situation. Some women have turned a rapist off by saying they were
menstruating, pregnant, or had a venereal disease. Others have surprised their attackers with some repulsive physical act such as vomiting, urinating, defecating, belching or fainting.

Behaving in a friendly, solicitous manner and gaining a potential rapist’s confidence has been used successfully by some women. Complimenting him and appearing to go along with his advances will sometimes cause the rapist to relax and perhaps give the woman an opportunity to escape. However, for some rapists, such behavior may be encouraging.
A verbal self-defense may be effective with many potential rapists. To succeed in talking one’s way out of a sexual assault, a woman must have confidence in herself and her ability to gain control of a situation. Often though, a woman does not have the opportunity to use her verbal skills or she finds that words have not worked in dissuading therapist.

Physical self-defense is an option with which some women may never feel comfortable. Electing to submit to a rapist, rather than risk injury or even death is a legitimate choice. Females have been taught from birth not to fight or even roughhouse, and therefore, find physical resistance impossible.
If a woman chooses to defend herself by force, she must be certain that she can hurt a man badly enough to stop him merely inflicting pain is not sufficient. The nose, eyes, and throat are particularly vulnerable and susceptible to pain, whereas striking a man on the arm or head is virtually useless. Self defense classes teach people to use the weapons that are at their disposal always their hands and feet, and of course, their voices. Women who carry cans of mace or sharp objects do not always have them available when they are needed. Self defense and martial arts classes increase one’s self confidence as well as one’s ability to defend oneself, and women should consider enrolling in such a course.

Children and adults of all ages need to be taught to feel positive about themselves. A positive self image will go a long way in helping a person defend herself against a sexual assault.

Maybe the feminists are right, maybe talking to any woman about preventive measures that include dressing and non-verbal cues leads to victim’s blaming, but you are not a victim until you actually become a victim. I may be wrong, but will it not amount to treating all women as victims before the crime is even committed if we hold back information from them that could ‘victimize’ victims?

Maybe the researches that say most rape has nothing to do with dressing is right, but what about the others that do have to do with dressing. Even if it is 1% (and a US study says it’s about 4.4%) when the 1% is converted to numbers you will find real people who would probably have benefited from advice on preventive measures?

So this is my stand: I remain unconvinced that talking to young ladies about preventive measure does more harm than good. As long as we have that 34% of Nigerians out there who think that the way a woman dresses is a kind of free pass to rape her, I will use every strategy available to prevent rape including talking to ladies about sending out the wrong signals in anyway.

I will preach preventive measures but I will NEVER blame the victim if rape occurs.

I will educate everyone around me that rape is wrong whether it is committed by a stranger or someone one knows. I will encourage anyone who is a victim or has witnessed a rape to report it.

I will contribute to talks of ensuring that the right legislation is in place so that if anyone becomes a victim they will get justice. As the first study cited indicates, legislation plays a key role in ensuring that when a rape occurs, no one will be allowed to use the way the victim dresses to deny them justice.


You may find this contribution in this research titled “Prosecuting and Defending Rape: Perspectives From the Bar” interesting. It contains perspectives from Barristers who have actually handled rape cases. The full research can be found here
This article discusses the findings of a qualitative study (part of a larger study into rape and criminal justice) which involved in-depth interviews with a sample of ten highly experienced barristers who between them had prosecuted and defended in hundreds of rape trials. It is concerned with the barristers’ perceptions of the problems involved in prosecuting rape and the strategies deployed in defending rape cases. The article discusses the ethics of advocacy in the context of rape trials and argues that within the adversarial system there are ethical limits which should be observed.
I have reproduced point number five below
5. The character of the complainant
Complainants were viewed by some barristers in an uncomplimentary and negative light. It was felt, for example, that juries were very affected by the appearance of witnesses. The barristers drew a distinction between women who gave the appearance of respectability and those who did not. The language used to describe the latter was, in some cases, sharply denigratory as if there was some sympathy for jury assessments based on such criteria. Several barristers mentioned the problem of complainants who came to court inappropriately dressed. BAR3 said:
I think it’s just common sense that if a woman looks like a scrubber she’s going to get less sympathy from a jury than someone who looks respectable.
BAR2 said: ‘It would be useful if they could sit down without showing their knickers’.
The complainant’s behaviour at the time of the event and her sexual character were also regarded as impediments to the prosecution. BAR3, who mainly prosecuted, nevertheless agreed with juries who took a dim view of the complainant’s behaviour in some cases:
I mean the silly woman is prepared to be picked up by a stranger and go back for, quotes, coffee, you know, what does she expect? If a woman does that, can she really be surprised that a jury will say that she may have consented to sex? Again a hitch-hiker or somebody like that.
BAR 6 said that juries ‘were not very good (at convicting) when somebody can be depicted as a slut’. He also saw the lifestyle of the complainant as a problem:
If you live in a squat or are a single mother it does have an impact on juries. I think that they think that you are more likely to have got what you deserved.
Thus some barristers had the perception that their own efforts were sabotaged by poor witnesses. In the case of medical witnesses there was clearly some justification for this. In the case of complainants however, there was no criticism of what Smart would describe as the ‘phallocentric’ assumptions on which the trial was based. Rather, women were seen by some barristers as their own worst enemies, or even to blame for their own fate and that of the prosecution.

I am fully aware that my views as expressed in the last article will be seen as controversial but they actually represent my convictions. I have noted the deliberate distortions of my words and I have chosen to ignore them. My personal stand remains: Rape is wrong and nothing a woman does should give anyone a right to rape her. If she says NO it means NO. Whether she said no at the beginning or just when the man is about to penetrate. Even if she is a prostitute and you have paid if she says no the worst a man can do is ask for a refund not FORCE her.

Comments are welcome. I shall be polite to even rude comments. Promise 

Serving it Hot!

Rape: Is the Woman Ever To Blame?

Last week, there was a walk against rape in Lagos and Abuja to sensitize people on the issue of rape. Again the question is thrown up: Should the woman ever be blamed for being a victim of rape? The politically correct answer to this question will be no. The woman is never to blame. Why would you even consider blaming the victim of a crime for the offense? No, the victim of rape, either male or female, should never be blamed for the crime.

But, I will ask the question again. Probably not the same question anymore depending on how you choose to look at it. Can a woman do anything to incite rape? This is like asking: can a woman seduce a man? The answer to this question would be yes. There are actions a woman can take that would make certain men believe that she is indeed asking for it.

Before I go any further, let me do a classification. This classification is very personal but it is based on certain observations. I believe there are two classes of rapists. Before you tear in, take note that I said two classes of RAPISTS not two classes of people. Both classes are guilty of the same crime.

First, there is the group I will refer to as sociopathic rapists: in this category, I will put in serial rapists. Men who derive pleasure from taking women by force. Some are even married to the women they subject to this torture. In fact, they may not enjoy sex if they do not take it by force. I will also put in this group men who stalk a woman for the singular reason that they want to have sex with her and exercise that power over her. This is like a vacation to them and it wouldn’t matter whether the woman was dressed in a pudhah or walking the streets wearing g-strings only. Preaching “a gentleman understands that no is NO” is lost on this group.

For this group, a woman is encouraged not to walk dark street corners, or be out alone too late a night, or learn martial arts or carry pepper spray or whatever else she is able to do to be able to ward off such an attacker should he strike. Of course, she knows when she gets raped she cannot be blamed but she takes PREVENTIVE measures because at the end of the day no one wants to be a victim of rape. It is better to be someone who warded off a rapist by biting off his penis than one telling stories in court to see if she can get a conviction.

Then there is the other group I choose to refer to as opportunist rapists. This group does not set out to rape anyone mostly. But they do because the opportunity presents itself. For instance, a lady goes visiting a guy even had agreed verbally to have sex, or even he believes she knows its a shagging session and she starts saying yes by allowing him to touch her but then says no when it gets down to it. The man is too far gone to stop. Yes, he is still a rapist. Yes, he is still wrong. But he will have an ‘I did it because..” and there are people who would support his actions ( I am not a guy but someone has told me there is a point of no return for some guys. Oh well…)

Also in this group are guys who actually like a lady and would not mind marrying her and they keep thinking about this girl to the point that they force themselves on her when they get the opportunity. The girl may like them too and even make herself available to them but note that she does not want sex. Like the bible record of Shechem raping Dinah. Note that Shechem was a gentleman, but violate her he did. Guilty, he is. But if Dinah didn’t make visiting the people of the land a custom would she have been a victim?

Oh, I have not forgotten the issue of dressing. Again let me say that a lady’s dressing should never be seen by any sane person as an invitation to rape. But did anyone say rapists are sane? Opportunist rapists are just as insane as their sociopathic counterparts and that is why for them a woman would do well to avoid certain actions.

I’d you do not want to laugh, do not show your teeth. The default for most people is that a boy and a girl who spend so much time together want to get involved sexually. And with virginity being treated with disdain by many, a guy or girl will believe that if you let them hit first base then they should move to second base. Make your stand clear. Have the conversation. If you do not want sex tell him or her well in advance that you do not want sex. Tell them that when/if you say no it means no.

Do not give off wrong signals. Do not through your dress and mannerisms give off the impression that you are easy. Back in Bible times, there was a dress that identified women of easy virtue. Today, there are clothes for different occasions. The way you dress for the club is different from the way you will dress to the office or to a day party or taking a walk down the street or to the mall. Do not make yourself a walking target. I could use the illustration of someone who doesn’t want to attract thieves not exposing expensive items in their car but I think it has been overused. I will rather ask if you will be thought wise for walking into a bullring dressed in all red and dainty stiletto shoes? Think of every opportunist rapist as a raging bull and you may just get the reason they should never be tempted with red.

My message to my boys is: when a girl says no, no matter how far gone you are, that is the end. No means NO. I believe my boys are sane and reasonable. I know not all men are sane and/or reasonable so my message to my girls will be: Learn martial arts, carry something to protect yourself but do not do anything that will attract the attention of a human predator. It is better to say it could have happened than let’s get a conviction. No conviction will bring back the loss of self-esteem, the anger against the opposite sex, the betrayal and everything else that comes with being a victim.

I never knew I would get to use this cliche expression. But really, prevention is better than cure.